Game 4: Ravens' defense clamps down on Jets in 34-17 win

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The reminder to their former defensive coordinator and a nationally-televised audience came with every punishing hit of Mark Sanchez, every crushing tackle of one of the New York Jets, and every ball that either bounced off the turf or fluttered in the air before winding up in their hands.

When it comes to having a physical and opportunistic defense, these Ravens still set the standard.

With Jets coach Rex Ryan looking on from the sidelines and powerless to do anything to stop them, the Ravens achieved a franchise record with three defensive touchdowns on their way to a satisfying 34-17 victory over the overmatched Jets in front of an announced 71,247 at M&T Bank Stadium.

"He created us. Now he had to deal with us," linebacker Jarret Johnson said of Ryan, who was a Ravens' defensive coach for 10 years before getting hired by the Jets in 2009. "It was fun."

The suffocating defense made up for a mostly shaky performance by quarterback Joe Flacco, and sent the Ravens into their bye week with a 3-1 record, good for sole possession of first place in the AFC North. In four games, the Ravens' defense has forced 14 turnovers, and scored four touchdowns

"I do sense something special with this defense and with this team," said Raven coach John Harbaugh. "I think there is a spirit on this team that's hard to describe and I wish I could put it in words for you. I saw it the first day the guys came back. We'll see where it takes us, but I couldn't be more proud of this team. You either do or you don't, and those guys did it tonight."

With the Ravens' grip on the game seemingly loosening early in the third quarter after Flacco's second turnover, cornerback Lardarius Webb picked off a Sanchez pass that floated over the head of Santonio Holmes and raced 73 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Ravens a 34-17 lead, and was symbolic of a miserable night for Sanchez, who was drilled on the play by Terrell Suggs, and watched Webb stroll into the end zone from the turf.

The Jets young quarterback had one of the worst performances of his career, going 11-for-35 for 119 yards, while throwing one interception and fumbling the ball four times, losing three of them. In two career games against the Ravens, Sanchez is 21-for-56 for 193 yards with four turnovers and four sacks.

"He hit the ground pretty quick a few times, and you could tell he was feeling the pressure, and that's our goal," said Johnson. "When we see that, we're going to keep coming."

Setting the tone, Ravens safety Ed Reed blitzed from off the edge on the Jets' first offensive play. He forced a fumble that was returned six yards for a touchdown by linebacker Jameel McClain. Then in the second quarter, Sanchez was leveled by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as he attempted to throw the ball. Jarret Johnson scooped up the ball and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown, giving the Ravens a 27-7 lead.

"The performance by their defense was spectacular," Ryan said. "They were coming after us. That's that Raven defense. It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses. I don't know what else to say. We just got it handed to us."

How bad did things get for Ryan's Jets, who have given up 68 points in losing two straight, and now have to go to New England next week?

Their 150 yards of total offense are the fewest gained by a Ryan-coached Jets team. They had four total turnovers while getting only seven first downs. They went just 4-for-15 on third downs, rushed for only 38 yards and committed nine penalties for 69 yards. They also had the ball just under 15 minutes less than the Ravens.

The Jets (2-2) essentially had two highlights: Joe McKnight's 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that answered McClain's score, and linebacker David Harris' 35-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the first half. The five returns for touchdowns in the game set an NFL record.

"It was an unbelievable game," said Harbaugh. "The best defensive performance I've ever seen, and the most amazing defensive performance I thought I'd seen was the Pittsburgh game with the seven turnovers against that offense. But this topped it. That's pretty impressive to say the least. It was a team victory, but our defense carried us."

It had to on a night where Flacco couldn't get anything going after a decent first quarter. Flacco went 8-for-17 for 142 yards in the first quarter. The next three quarters, he was 2-for-14 for 21 yards with one interception and one fumble. He finished the game with a 37.4 quarterback rating, throwing 12 straight incompletions at one point while the Ravens went to their ground game, running 11 straight plays spanning the third and fourth quarters.

"It wasn't too pretty but any time you get a win in the NFL, it's a good one especially when you are playing a good team like that," said Flacco who finished just 10-for-31 for 163 yards a week after passing for a career-high 389 yards in a 37-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams. "Our defense really showed up today. I thought we were able to do some things really well on offense early on. It was a great team win."

Flacco was at his best on the Ravens' eight-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Ray Rice's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left in the first quarter. On the drive, he hit Rice for 12 yards, Anquan Boldin for 28 and then Ed Dickson for 13 to get the Ravens down to the 4-yard line.

But beyond that, he was plenty content to let the Ravens' defense take over the game. The Jets didn't pick up a first down until Plaxico Burress's 8-yard catch on their final play of the first quarter. That drive ended with another New York miscue as Sanchez couldn't catch a high snap by Colin Baxter, who was starting with All Pro center Nick Mangold out with an ankle injury. Paul Kruger recovered it and then four plays later, Billy Cundiff converted a 38-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 20-7 lead.

Ryan temporarily pulled Baxter from the game, but that did little to solve the Jets' offensive line woes. On that drive Ngata came up the middle and slammed Sanchez just as he was getting rid of the ball. Johnson picked up the ball and could have walked into the end zone. The play withstood a lengthy review and gave the Ravens a 27-7 lead.

With Sanchez limping off the field and Ryan screaming at referee Mike Carey, the Jets had the look of a beaten team. But they still had another 2 1/2 quarters to endure before the Ravens put the finishing touches on a seventh consecutive victory over New York, and their 12th win in the last 13 games at M&T Bank Stadium.

"It was old school," said Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis of the defense's performance. "We started out the year kind of hot like this, got back on track last week against St. Louis, and this week we kind of came out and carried it over. It was a pretty good all-around win."