The 33-30 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 11 was one of the low points this season for the Ravens defense. Browns journeyman quarterback Josh McCown threw for 457 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another score. The Browns had 505 yards of total offense and scored 24 points over the final 25 minutes of the game.
Heading into Monday night's game against the Browns, the Ravens insist that they have a much-improved defense and reviewing film from that first matchup with Cleveland provided that affirmation.
"Looking at it, [we said], 'Man, look how much better we got,'" rush linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "The energy – guys flying to the ball, knowing the assignments, communication – things like that helps turn defenses around. We're excited. That wasn't a great part of what we were doing at that time, but life is about progress, and hopefully we head in that direction."
A rematch with McCown and company should provide a decent measuring stick for the Ravens defense. After that first game, the Ravens' pass defense ranked 25th in the NFL, allowing 278.2 yards per game through the air. Five games later, the Ravens' pass defense ranks 24th, but it has lowered the passing yards allowed to 257 per contest.
In their past two games, the Ravens have held the Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams to 168 and 131 passing yards, respectively.
"The biggest thing in the Cleveland game was that we just gave up eight big plays that you can't overcome, and in the last couple of games – even back to San Diego, the last three games – we gave up one play in the San Diego game and in the last two, very few, if any," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "So, that's been the difference. I think we've made improvement. We've still got a long way to go."
Pees has juggled his personnel somewhat, using Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright as the outside corners and Lardarius Webb in the slot. Inside linebackers Zachary Orr and Arthur Brown have also been inserted in the game at times on third downs.
"If you watch the first game, it's not that they did something that we couldn't stop," Smith said. "We literally just weren't good then. We let eight plays of 188 yards beat us. It's not like he went out there and just doctored us up. It wasn't that. We let a few big plays happen. We pretty much handled them for most of the game."