The Ravens defense knew what kind of D it was up against. The Jets brought a top 10 unit to Baltimore, one that was No. 1 against the run and had all the characteristics of a traditional Rex Ryan defense.
The Ravens were determined to be the better defense Sunday, and they succeeded in a big way.
Baltimore’s 19-3 win marked the first time the unit held an opponent to three points or fewer since doing so three times in 2009. The last three-point game was a 48-3 victory over the Lions on Dec. 13, 2009. The last time the Ravens trumped that was a 16-0 blanking at Cleveland on Nov. 16, 2009.
On top of that, Baltimore surrendered just 220 yards, the fewest it has allowed this season and also the lowest total accumulated by New York this year. By allowing no touchdowns, the Ravens defense has permitted just 11 in the 10 games since the opener.
The Jets, on the other hand, gave up 312 yards and 19 points.
Safety James Ihedigbo said outplaying New York’s defense was one of the Ravens’ goals heading into the contest.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “We always say it’s our show, and that’s how we look at it - not with an arrogance, but with a confidence, knowing the type of players we have on that field defensively and we play together. We got with that mindset - let’s take over.”
Cornerback Corey Graham shared similar feelings following his two-interception day. It was the first time Graham picked off two passes in a regular season game. He also did it in the Ravens’ divisional playoff win in Denver last year.
“We always want to be the best defense on the field,” he said. “That’s just how it is, regardless of who we’re playing. We knew they’ve got a pretty good front seven, and they play good ball. But when it came down to it, we wanted to be a dominant defense, and that’s what we were able to do today.”
The Ravens have had trouble with getting opposing offenses off the field in key moments this season, letting foes put together extended drives to drain clock and salt games away.
Not on Sunday.
Baltimore didn’t let New York stay on the field for longer than a 4:01 drive at the end of the third quarter when the game was still well within reach at 12-3. That possession ended with Graham’s first interception and the Jets held the ball just 4:58 the rest of the way.
The Ravens forced the Jets to go 1-for-12 on third down.
“That’s just a great accomplishment,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The pressure was there. We did a great job. We blitzed a little bit, but I think more of it was four-man pressure, and that’s usually a result of coverage, too. Our guys did a good job of taking away the first read or two, gave our guys a chance to get there.”
The Jets use a decent amount of trickery, employing a wildcat formation that puts wideout Josh Cribbs under center and sends quarterback Geno Smith out wide. They also do a number of direct snaps to Cribbs out of the backfield.
That helped New York enter the day averaging 129.5 rushing yards per game for the league’s eighth-ranked running game.
Baltimore limited the Jets to just 102 yards on the ground, limiting what the they could do with their unconventional sets.
“You know, you can only do that for so long and you eventually have to find people with the football,” Ihedigbo said. “So we played discipline-style football and made plays when we had the opportunity.”
Ihedigbo credited the Ravens’ defensive line for making sure the Jets’ running game didn’t get off the ground.
“Look at those guys. Everyone talked about their run game, but last time I checked, they weren’t running the ball on us,” Ihedigbo said. “So our D-line did an awesome job and made it easy.”
Dumervil leads the team with 9.5 on the year. Smith’s sack was the 25th of his career. That also extended the Ravens’ streak of games with at least two sacks to 19 in a row, matching the NFL’s longest such run since 1990. Baltimore has at least one sack in 22 consecutive contests, tying a franchise record.
Smith also had three passes defensed - on an impressive three consecutive plays during the same series in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve just been waiting for plays like that to develop,” Smith said. “There were points in the game where plays just weren’t coming my way. Then they started coming at me. Luckily, I was able to make those plays.”
Graham was also pleased to be able to contribute his two interceptions, both of which came in the second half, as the Jets finished with three turnovers on the day. The third was a fumble recovered by Terrell Suggs.
“It’s great,” Graham said. “It’s only the second time it’s ever happened to me, so it’s great. Hopefully, I can keep doing it and get used to it a little bit.”
The win improved the Ravens to 5-6 and thanks to a ridiculous combination of results - a Chargers win, Dolphins loss and Steelers win - there are now five teams tied for the AFC’s second wild card at 5-6. As long as the still-ongoing Titans-Raiders game doesn’t end in a tie (and there has already been one of those today), there will be a six-way deadlock for that second wild card with five weeks remaining in the regular season.
So the Ravens kind of needed the win, their second in three games.
“To go where we want to, we’re going to have to just win at home and it was more than a want - it was a need,” Ihedigbo said.
Said Dumervil: “We’ve played this hard all year. It’s nice to see that it’s starting to work out for us now. We need to work hard as a team and to continue to complement each other as a team: offense, defense and special teams.”
And they did, but mainly by having the best defense in Baltimore on Sunday.
“We wanted to be the better defense on the field,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “But we respect Rex. We know he’s a great coach, but in the end, we felt like let’s win a game just for the defense, for us. Not nobody else, just defense, let’s go out and try to win a game on our own. And we went out and ran into the team, and played great.”