Disappointment and frustration might have been appropriate words to describe the emotions reverberating through the Ravens defense in the aftermath of Sunday night's 20-point loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Cory Redding had a different term in mind.
"Pissed off," the defensive end said. "Pissed off that we let one get away and especially the way that it did — giving up 34 points, letting the ball get over our heads three or four times. We crushed the run, which is something we're always going to hang our hats on, but we didn't get the job done. We didn't get to [San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers] as pass rushers as much as we wanted to. We didn't challenge the ball as much as we should have on the back end. But that's being pros. We've got to call ourselves out whenever we play bad and call ourselves out when we play well. We were pissed off because we knew we should've won that game, and we let that one get away."
A unit that prides itself on a tradition of defensive excellence is still smarting from that performance against the Chargers, who dissected the Ravens with surgical precision. The defense surrendered season highs in points allowed (34) and margin of loss (20) and tied a season worst in first downs allowed (23).
San Diego never punted and scored on its first five possessions, becoming the first opponent to do that against the Ravens in the club's 16-year history.
The game was so lopsided that when running back Ryan Mathews scored his second touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run to give the Chargers a 31-7 lead with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs looked at the scoreboard and — according to defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano — asked, "Are we this bad?"
Redding said many defensive players asked the team's video equipment personnel to download the game film to their iPads so that they could immediately review their mistakes during the flight back to Baltimore.
"That's how these guys are. We're like, 'Give me the tape. I need to see that tape right now,'" Redding said. "In the back of the plane, guys are mad. We relive the game two or three times, and once we watch it with the team, we put it behind us and move onto the next."
"They're just not used to that," Pagano said of feeling of being vastly outplayed by an opposing offense. "Give San Diego credit. They came out and we knew they had been playing really, really well. And the quarterback was playing at a high level, and they're healthy and their wideouts are healthy. It was pretty somber, but at the same time, it's the NFL, and it can be very humbling. It's why you take it week to week and keep it on the highway, we say. Never too high, never too low. We know we've got to get over it and move on."
Since Monday, the defensive meetings have been an open forum for players and coaches to provide input to the game plan for Saturday's home game against the Cleveland Browns. But Suggs said many players did some self-review of their own.
"This is the NFL, and teams are going to know where your weaknesses are, where your holes are and what you're not so good at," Suggs said. "They're going to try to exploit those things. We've got to do a better job of not showing them or not having any. Definitely, we've got to look at ourselves. But we know who we are, what we can do, what we're capable of and how we're supposed to play on top of that. So it's a lot of self-look, but you've just got to take it for what it is."
A toe injury confined cornerback Lardarius Webb to limited duty, and the Chargers took advantage,
targeting corners Cary Williams and rookie Jimmy Smith often. The Ravens expect the Browns to employ a similar strategy.
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"I think they're going to come in and attack us," strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "They're going to watch film. They're going to attack us where the other teams attacked us at, and me being a secondary player, they're going to come after us. And I think we've got to step up. It's for us to show up and show out because if we don't, anytime that ball goes over our heads, as you guys have seen, it's always a touchdown."
Cleveland's strength is handing the ball to burly running back Peyton Hillis, but quarterback Seneca Wallace — who is expected to start in place of the injured Colt McCoy (post-concussion symptoms) — threw for 226 yards in last week's 20-17 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals, including a 76-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Greg Little.
The Browns are ensured of their fourth consecutive losing season, but that doesn't mean they won't be motivated to impact the AFC playoff picture, which currently has the Ravens sitting as the No. 2 seed. A loss and a Pittsburgh Steelers win against the St. Louis Rams would drop the Ravens to the No. 5 seed.
"They have nothing to lose," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "I think they know that they can mess up our playoff hopes and all that. So with that in mind, I think they want to ruin it for us just because they're our [division] rivals. So it's a game that we have to be careful [of]."
As much as the defense would like to, it can't hide from its showing against San Diego. But the group also knows it can make amends Saturday.
"That was us," Pollard said. "We can't say it wasn't us. We didn't play good ball. Now it's time for us to play our type of defense."