A glance at the NFL’s defensive statistics might lead to a collective head tilt from Ravens fans.
Their customary shutdown defense is nowhere to be found among the league’s best heading into this week’s game against the Patriots. You have to run your finger down the list, all the way to No. 27, to find the unit that has customarily ranked among the NFL’s top five, if not the top three.
Through two games, the Ravens are allowing 404 yards per contest, with last week’s 486-yard effort by the Eagles doing most of the damage.
Of course, that’s not what Baltimore is used to, but it’s not like the ‘D’ is in freefall mode. The Ravens still stand sixth in the league in scoring defense, holding opponents to 18.5 points per game, and are and among NFL leaders with six forced turnovers.
However, the early struggles in the yards department are a concern, and some of that can be chalked up to health. With no Terrell Suggs and time without Paul Kruger and Bernard Pollard, as well as others, the defense is far from full strength.
Kruger and Pollard could both be back tomorrow.
Linebacker Ray Lewis addressed the No. 27 ranking earlier this week.
“Trust me, we’ve never gotten into stats early. That’s why when people talk about our defense or whatever, they want to say (something) at the beginning of the year, we always say, ‘Find us at the end of the year,’ and you know what we’re going to be,” Lewis told reporters. “That’s all adjustment. That’s all adding this person, adding that person, fixing this, fixing that, this person goes down, that person goes down, lose a Paul Kruger after not having a Terrell Suggs. Moving a lot of people around and a lot of different communication things really have to pick up as you go farther in the season.
“All of that, every team is going to deal with that. Every team is going to deal with that. You watch the TVs, and you watch the offensive struggles that are going on with different quarterbacks. There are always adjustments that every team has to make, just like us - we are no different. We have to make the same adjustments.”
The Ravens (1-1) certainly won’t have a gimme to get the defense on track with New England coming to town.
The Pats (1-1) are averaging 26 points and 388.5 yards per game, coming in with quarterback Tom Brady again at the center of it.
Brady has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 552 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“He’s always right there at the elite level,” coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “He always plays that way. He has his own style; every quarterback does, but nobody does it any better than he does. He’s been doing it for a long time. Anytime there’s Tom Brady playing, they’re always going to be dangerous, and they’re always going to be successful.”
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens will be looking to get back on track after struggling in the second half at Philadelphia. The up-tempo, efficient and rhythmic offense that showed up in Week 1 only appeared sporadically against the Eagles.
Quarterback Joe Flacco slipped from completing 72.4 percent of his attempts for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Bengals to 52.4 percent for 232 yards, one score and one pick last week.
Flacco had the offense at its best in the second half of the opener, but it was just the opposite in Philly. So being able to put a complete game together is his focus.
“We’ve just got to go out there and execute and play well and do what we know how to do,” Flacco told reporters. “I feel if that happens, we will eliminate the chances of a second half where we really can’t put too many points on the board happening again. But (the Eagles) did a good job of coming up with pressure on us and doing some things to slow us down a little bit.”
That’ll be a challenge against the NFL’s second-ranked defense. The Pats are allowing just 264.5 yards and 16.5 points per game.
New England also appears to have addressed its leaky pass defense from a year ago, holding foes to 202 yards per game through the air so far this year.
“They are playing tremendously well,” Harbaugh told reporters. “The back end is playing sound and solid. It starts with a cover 2 shell. It’s all disguised extremely well. They are very physical. They hit every receiver they see every opportunity they get. They are really good at it. Their safeties play with great spacing and great vision in the back end.
“They are getting nice pressure out of their front, very steady pressure out of their front. Linebackers are downhill, physical guys. The five inside players are just so physical, and the ends do a great job of pushing everything back into those guys against the run. So of course, Vince Wilfork, he’s just a force in the middle. (It is) just a really, really good defense.”