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Coach John Harbaugh, QB Lamar Jackson and ILB Matthew Judon talk about their 23-17 win against Bengals on Sunday, October 13.

Two Sundays ago, inside linebacker Josh Bynes was waiting at home for a call that would prolong his eight-year NFL career.

Fellow inside linebacker L.J. Fort was two days removed from being released by the Philadelphia Eagles, who needed to create a roster spot.

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Defensive lineman Jihad Ward was two days away from being cut by the Indianapolis Colts.

And yet, all three veterans found their way into the Ravens’ defensive rotation Sunday, playing significant snaps in the team’s 23-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The unexpected midseason additions were prompted by a unit that, by its own admission, has underperformed.

Despite no member of the new cast being in the team’s facility for a full two weeks, they were featured prominently Sunday and helped in a defensive effort that held an undermanned Bengals offense to 17 points and 250 yards.

“I’ll tell you, I give the credit to them,“ coach John Harbaugh said. “Our coaches have done a great job, obviously. And the good thing is, they’re veteran players. So, they’ve been coached. They know how to play schemes. They know how to fit certain fronts. So, for them to translate how we get to those calls and things like that is really the main thing you have to do, and then you take advantage of that experience that they have and plug it into what they do.”

Consecutive games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns with flagrant defensive lapses forced the Ravens to rethink their starting defensive unit.

After inside linebackers Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young struggled to stop the run and fill in gaps, Bynes and Fort were signed to add experience to the young linebackers corps.

Onwuasor moved back to weak-side linebacker, where he said he feels more comfortable, as Bynes took over at middle linebacker.

Bynes, after recording an interception last week against the Steelers, registered three tackles Sunday and deflected a pass that led to cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s interception.

With Onwuasor inactive Sunday because of an ankle injury, Fort, 29, got extensive playing time over second-year player Young, who was a healthy scratch last week and primarily contributed on special teams against the Bengals. Fort recorded two tackles and a pass breakup.

A lack of a consistent pass rush and a timely roster cut allowed the Ravens on Monday to bring in Ward, a former second-round draft pick who has the versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive line.

Ward was so fresh to the team that defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale neglected to answer a question raised during the week on Ward’s role, but the 25-year-old recorded two tackles and frequently lined up as an interior rusher on passing situations.

“[Ward] has some real ability,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a physical guy. Putting him on the right spot on the edge of the defense, moving him inside the rush on third down is going to be something that’s going to help us.”

For the second straight game, there were improvements. After allowing an offensive play of 40 yards in each of the first four games this season, the defense avoided the inexplicable breakdowns that have hampered the unit all year.

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“I said this a week ago about Josh Bynes, but all those guys came in, [and] they learned the playbook very fast to where they can execute at a high level,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “Those guys helped us out. Fort was running around, making plays. Josh Bynes keeps executing at a high level and being where he needs to be and being a true [middle] linebacker.

“Ward, he did a good job. He relieved some of our ends on rush downs, and he played fast. I think those guys, they’re only going to get better, and they’re only going to get faster.”

While the defense has made strides in recent weeks, questions remain.

The performances have come against two talent-deprived divisional opponents, and the pass rush didn’t register a sack until the Bengals’ final offensive possession.

With Humphrey shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers and cornerback Brandon Carr providing a steady option in the slot, offenses are beginning to target cornerback Maurice Canady, who started the season on the practice squad.

The team’s next two games — on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, followed by a home matchup against the Patriots after the bye week — will offer a better barometer for the state of the defense.

The Ravens’ hope is that as the weeks go by, these veterans, who the team didn’t even have on the 90-man roster in training camp, will get even more comfortable in their roles.

“We need more vets in the NFL,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “They want to go young now, the NFL wants to go young now, they want to cut all of us out. It’s all good, but that is what happens when you get guys that know how to play the game and have been in the game a long time.”

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