Before looking deeper at the improved numbers and general performance of the Ravens’ defense one week after it was shelled by the Broncos, let’s start with an uplifting story.
Art Jones was back to work, in uniform and starting at defensive tackle after enduring maybe the scare of his life. Jones missed Baltimore’s first game because of a still mysterious illness - an unexplained racing heartbeat that wasn’t believed to be a virus or a heart attack.
But it had Jones more than fearing whether he’d be able to be on the football field this week.
“Two weeks ago, I didn’t think I was going to be on this earth,” he said. “I’ve really been doing nothing for two weeks but eating healthy. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t lift. I couldn’t do anything but pray and put god first and spend time with my family. It really helped me evaluate life and learn to appreciate the small things.
“We take a lot of things for granted, not that I ever took football for granted, but it’s really a treat to be out here to play. Me running out of that tunnel today, it was unbelievable. It was the best feeling in the world, better than me running out there as a rookie because I could easily have not been on this earth and my girlfriend could’ve been raising two children on her own. So it’s a blessing.”
Jones did more than just show up Sunday. He played a key role in the Ravens holding the Browns without a touchdown and shutting them out in the second half of a 14-6 victory. He finished with three tackles, including a sack he capped with an exuberant celebration.
And Jones had plenty of help from his defensive teammates. Linebacker Daryl Smith had a game-high 11 tackles, including a career-high tying 1.5 sacks. Cornerback Lardarius Webb had nine tackles. Linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil each added a sack.
Suggs’ sack was his 14th against the Browns while Dumervil’s was his 10th, marking the most against any opponent for each of them.
The Ravens’ pass rush was off the charts with five sacks for a combined loss of 39 yards and 12 quarterback hurries.
“I think it’s a combination of just the guys we’ve got doing it,” Suggs said of the pressure. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are getting after the quarterback and that’s a good thing. (Smith), he even decided to get in on it. He even had (1.5) sacks, too. That’s the mentality we said we’re going to have. We’re going to stop the run, we’re going to get after them on the pass. We did that.”
The secondary did its part after allowing a 53-yard pass on Cleveland’s first offensive play of the game. From that point on, the Ravens permitted just 141 yards through the air and 204 yards overall.
Safety Matt Elam, who made his first career start Sunday, said that first big play snapped the secondary into shape for a strong effort.
“I feel like we did our job, we executed,” Elam said. “We made plays on the ball and we stopped them from scoring touchdowns and that’s our objective. So I felt like we did good.
“It feels great. That’s the way, man. You come out to shut guys out. We did our jobs, so I feel like it’s a great feeling.”
Overall, the Ravens defense had a much-improved showing over Week 1. Against the Broncos, Baltimore allowed more yards (510) and points (49) than any other team in the NFL. This week, the Ravens held the Browns to just two first-half field goals.
From 49 points in a loss to six points in a win. It was the first time the team didn’t allow a touchdown since last Nov. 4 at Cleveland and it looked a lot closer to what Ravens fans are accustomed to.
“That’s why we’re here, to play Ravens defense,” Smith said. “They moved more than we wanted, but we played a lot better this week. ...
“You never want to go out there and play the way we did in Denver. We just couldn’t wait for the next game to come, and we came here with it on our minds and we got it done.”
Suggs was also pleased to see the Ravens make such swift progress.
“You know, you’ve got to have a short memory,” he said. “You definitely don’t want to give up 49 points every week. First things first, get the win and you’ve got to protect your home. You win your home games and you’ve got a good chance of making the playoffs and doing some great things. First things first, we get the win. We played really good on defense. It could be better, most definitely, but I think we played real solid.”