One of the major topics of discussion posed by reporters around Ravens headquarters last week was how Baltimore's defense would be able to deal with the Rams fast-paced no-huddle offense, a look which had given both of St. Louis' previous two opponents issues this season.
To copy a line I used prior to the game yesterday in my "Three Keys": No-huddle, no problem.
The Ravens never had an issue with the Rams' up-tempo offense yesterday afternoon, largely because they forced St. Louis to abandon the strategy.
Baltimore put tons of pressure on second-year quarterback Sam Bradford, knocking him around and never letting him get into a groove. The Ravens sacked Bradford five times, delivered 11 quarterback hits and intercepted him once, and held the talented QB to just 16-of-32 passing for 166 yards, a touchdown, and the pick.
In the first half, Bradford's numbers were even sloppier; he went just 4-of-15 for 17 yards prior to halftime.
When a quarterback is constantly picking himself up off the ground and shaking off the cobwebs from big hit after big hit, it's hard for him to rush back to the line and quickly call another play.
On top of that, when an offense is constantly facing second-and-long and third-and-long, the defense knows more passes will be on the way. The Rams couldn't go without a huddle much yesterday, or else they'd risk the Ravens teeing off even more on Bradford, and pummeling their young franchise quarterback.
When the Rams did try to push tempo, the Ravens were prepared for it thanks to a week of practice that was focused on getting in the plays quickly and efficiently.
"I credit Chuck Pagano," head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game. "I think he put together a really good gameplan to handle the no-huddle. Did a great job of getting the guys' signal system together that our guys were able to learn and execute really well, and that was probably the key to that."
Last Monday night, the Rams ran the Giants ragged by going without a huddle, and New York's defense got so tired that two players had to resort to flopping to the turf and feigning an injury in order to draw a whistle.
A couple days after that controversial incident, Terrell Suggs joked that he might employ the Giants' tactic of faking injuries to slow down the Rams' no-huddle.
"If it's working, don't be surprised, you'll see old 5-5 get a nice little hammy," Suggs said with a smile.
Fake hammy injuries weren't necessary yesterday. The Ravens stopped St. Louis' no-huddle the old fashioned way.