Injuries make it harder on Ravens, run defense in win over Cowboys

The first Ravens defensive player to go down was cornerback Lardarius Webb. Then it was defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who later returned after a trip to the locker room.

Later on, cornerback Jimmy Smith, linebacker Ray Lewis and nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu all spent time on the sidelines. It was so bad that Baltimore finished the 31-29 victory over Dallas with all but Ngata out of the game.

Being far from full strength both in the front seven and in the secondary didn’t help the Ravens put Dallas away when it looked like it might be more lopsided than a two-point game. Injuries contributed to a porous run defense that allowed a Ravens-record 227 yards on the ground Sunday as well, but they weren’t the only reason for those struggles.

The most significant and potentially long-term loss is Webb, who signed a long-term contract in the offseason and has been the team’s best cornerback all year.

Webb crumbled when trying to cover Dez Bryant in the first quarter, folding to the ground clutching at his left knee. Coach John Harbaugh said it might be a torn ACL.

“We’ve got a problem there. We don’t know for sure, but that’s what it looks like right now,” Harbaugh said.

And what a loss it would be. Cornerback Cary Williams, who made his third interception in as many games after Webb’s departure, knows how much his fellow corner would be missed.

“It’s tough because me and ‘Webby’ are more than just teammates. He’s like my little brother, and he’s a great friend,” Williams said. “We talk about anything outside of football and everything. We confide in each other whenever we need help and going through a situation. He’s a great listening ear and he’s a great teammate, and he plays real well on the field. It’s unfortunate for us to lose him. I wish him the best. I have him in my prayers and I’m going to continue to pray for him and hope his recovery is quick.”

Safety Ed Reed said that although losing Webb would be tough, the team has other options to fill the void.

“We’re professionals and guys prepare in the film room. I was confident guys would come out there and make a play,” Reed said. “Chykie (Brown) came in, Corey (Graham) came in and (James Ihedigbo) came in and stepped it up and did what we needed them to do.”

As for the other injuries, Ngata tweaked his knee but returned to the game and was on the field at the end, Lewis had a triceps issue and couldn’t finish while Smith suffered a leg or foot strain. Reports after the game indicated the team is concerned Lewis might have torn triceps. The statuses of all three will be a hot topic this week as Baltimore prepares for a trip to face the Houston Texans.

Another sure-to-be-discussed topic will be the Ravens’ run defense.

Before surrendering 227 rushing yards to Dallas’ four backs today, Baltimore gave up 214 to the Chiefs last week. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones both eclipsed 90 yards at M&T Bank Stadium while Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar each found holes in the Ravens’ front.

Missed tackles seemed to be what frustrated Harbaugh most.

“I’m surprised about the tackling,” he said. “We’re historically a very good tackling team and we were not a very good tackling team today. Our players will tell you. That’s nothing that our players won’t tell you. They’re going to tell you we’ve got to tackle better and they’re going to tell you we’ve got to play our run defense better at the point of attack. Those are things we’re going to have to get better at, especially this week.”

Linebacker Albert McClellan said the players are bothered by the ease with which teams are running against them.

“We’re hurting pretty bad stat-wise,” he said. “But we’re stopping them when we need to stop them. We’re keeping them out of the end zone, so that’s a plus.

“A lot of people were coming in, trying to take the kill-shot. We were probably just playing a little too physical when it comes to the point of attack instead of just making sure tackles. That probably could be it.”