After surrendering more than 200 rushing yards in back-to-back contests for the first time in team history, the Ravens said they wouldn't be surprised if the Houston Texans and the remaining teams on the 2012 schedule tried to attack the defense via the ground game.
In fact, the Ravens said they expect it.
"Definitely. Right now, of course you can," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "We're not doing anything to stop it. So that's why I'm a little frustrated that teams are being able to run on us. Hopefully, we can fix those things."
A proud unit that has finished in the top five against the run in six consecutive seasons – the NFL's longest active streak – allowed a franchise-worst 227 rushing yards to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday after giving up 214 yards to the Kansas City Chiefs the week before.
After Sunday's games, the Ravens dropped from 20th against the run to 26th. After giving up 819 yards through the first six contests, the defense is on pace to surrender 2,184 in 2012, which would shatter the current franchise-worst mark of 1,920 yards in 1996.
"We're hurting pretty bad stat-wise," outside linebacker Albert McClellan said. "Our Ravens mentality is kind of being challenged right now with the rushing yards. But we find a way to win, and we're getting the job done. We're stopping them when we need to stop them. We're keeping them out of the end zone. So that's a plus. We don't like them running the ball, but the fact that they're not getting into the end zone is still a plus."
With the exception of the absence of the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (torn right Achilles tendon), outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (free-agent departure to the San Diego Chargers) and defensive end Cory Redding (Indianapolis Colts), the personnel on defense hasn't changed that much. But the Ravens are struggling to contain opposing running backs from gaining ground off the edges and preventing opposing linemen from blocking the linebackers.
One of the new starters on defense, nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, took the blame for not helping the run unit lives up to its past reputation.
"For me personally, it's not good that we give up 200 yards," he said. "That's the reason why they brought me in, to help stop the run, and that's not happening. I need to fix it. Whether I need to get stronger or get my hands more inside, there are things I need to work on to better myself to help the team."
The defense's troubles though probably can't be limited to one individual. Every player will tell you that it's a collective, and just as no one single play determines the outcome, no single player should be blamed or deserve all the credit.
Still, the run unit is licking its wounds as it heads into Sunday's road game against Houston, and rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw predicted that opponents will continue to pound the Ravens on the ground until they are deterred.
"They all watch film like we watch film," he said. "This is the pros. Even in college, they watch film. So I'm pretty sure they would. If I was a coach on an opposing team, I'd probably look at the film and [say] like, 'We see somewhere where we can run here and do something here.' But I'm sure we're going to get in tomorrow and go to the film and correct everything. It's not really too much of a problem. Like I said, we've got to do our job first and just make tackles."