Prior to the Thanksgiving night clash with the Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers had been tied for 14th in the NFL in sacks allowed with 21.
That ranking will fall dramatically after the Ravens sacked quarterback Alex Smith nine times in a 16-6 victory Thursday night.
The nine sacks, which tied a franchise record set twice previously, were somewhat surprising since the defense had totaled just four sacks in the previous three contests and was playing without 12-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis.
But according to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata who posted two sacks, Lewis' absence was a factor in the defense's performance.
"I think we understand that up front, we needed to have a huge game just because we are missing Ray Lewis, and we are kind of light on the back," said Ngata, who collected his first two-sack showing since Oct. 17, 2010 against the New England Patriots. "Up front, we definitely had to have a big game, and I think we knew that. We did a great job today."
Defensive end Cory Redding, who enjoyed a career-best 2½ sacks, said the key was containing 49ers running back Frank Gore. Gore, who had entered the game ranked seventh in the league in rushing, could manage just 14 carries for 39 yards – his second-lowest total of the season.
"It's stopping the run," Redding said. "Once you stop Frank Gore, then we could pin our ears back and get up there faster. We knew we had great shots to get some pressure on him, but we didn't think it was going to be like that. So obviously, guys were just feeling the energy, looking at the pass scheme, and really just getting on the edge and rushing the passer tonight."
Smith, who threw for just 140 yards and finished with more interceptions than touchdown passes for the first time this season, said what the Ravens did wasn't shocking.
"We definitely expected some pressure," he said. "There were times I felt they were a step ahead of us. They have a very good defense, and it seemed like we were in third-and-long all night."
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who led the defense with three sacks, enjoyed the wide distribution of sacks, which included one sack by safety Tom Zbikowski and a half-sack by cornerback Lardarius Webb.
"It was a collective effort," Suggs said. "When teams are doing it together, they become scary. The Giants, the Vikings, Dallas, those teams are getting a lot of sacks because a lot of guys are doing it, not just one guy. So when you've got a unit that's playing in sync with each other, that's when you get a lot of sacks. They start to become contagious."