The Ravens’ deluge of sacks has dried into a trickle.
Since piling up a franchise-record 11 sacks in a 21-0 shutout at the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 14, the defense has managed just two combined against the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers. The unit has slid to a tie for second place with the Denver Broncos for most sacks in the NFL with 28, trailing the Minnesota Vikings’ 31.
That the Ravens lost to New Orleans, Carolina and Pittsburgh might seem coincidental, but figuring out the cause of the suddenly-disappearing pass rush looms as a priority when the defense returns from the bye week.
“It’s the last few games,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “I think people are game-planning us that way.”
The Ravens sacked the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger once each, but whiffed on several chances to pad that number. Cornerback Jimmy Smith and strong safety Tony Jefferson missed against Brees, and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith could not bring down Roethlisberger in time.
“When you have opportunities to get those guys in the grasp — Ben, we had in our grasp four times — we have to get him down, and they’re good at it,” Ravens defensive line coach Joe Cullen said Tuesday. “I think the biggest thing is, you have to keep rushing. You can’t get frustrated.”
Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley said he has noticed that Brees, Roethlisberger and the Panthers’ Cam Newton negated the pass rush by avoiding sitting in the pocket with the ball for long stretches.
“They’re getting the ball out. That’s really it,” he said. “We feel like the secondary has done a great job covering. As far as the inside linebackers, we’re dropping into the right spots. You saw Ben. He was patting the ball three or four times, but was able to make plays. So I think that shows we’re in the right spots.
“We’ve just got to cover that one extra second longer or do a better job of keeping the quarterback in the pocket. But it’s all going to click together because at the end of the year, we’re doing things the right way. But teams scout us, too. So they’re going to figure out little things to try to get us off our game, but as long as we stick to our game plan throughout the year, we’ll get it done.”
Like Mosley, nose tackle Chris Wormley said he has plenty of faith in defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s schemes and there is no reason to push the panic button.
“I think we’re going to stick to what we’ve been doing,” Wormley said. “Definitely with the in-game adjustments at halftime we’ve got to make, we’ve got to correct the things that they had hit us with in the first half. But we definitely are going to stick to what we’ve been doing. Coach Wink has done a great job for us, and like I said, it’s just a few things here and there that we can correct and that we’re going to correct in these next seven weeks.”
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Note: The New England Patriots signed former Ravens linebacker Albert McClellan this week. McClellan, 32, had spent his entire nine-year career with the Ravens. He was cut before the season started, was re-signed and then was cut again when the team acquired running back Ty Montgomery on Oct. 30.