If defensive effort persists, big things could be in store for Ravens

Over the last 36 hours or so, we've heard a number of people start to make comparisons between the current Ravens defense and the 2000 and 2006 units, which in many ways remain the gold standard for defensive domination both here in Baltimore and around the league.

Those comparisons are even coming from Trent Dilfer, the quarterback on the Ravens' 2000 team which won the Super Bowl. Dilfer, now an ESPN analyst, is saying the 2011 Baltimore defense reminds him of that record-setting group in 2000, which allowed the fewest points scored in NFL history.

Personally, I'm not really interested in all that talk. We're just four weeks into the season, and whether or not the Ravens' defense is better than those that have played here in previous years has no impact on where this team can go over the next four-plus months.

I will say this, however: This defense has the makings of something special.

Just take a look at the statistics and you can see how stingy and efficient the Baltimore defense has been through four games.

* Second in scoring defense
* Third in total defense
* First in turnovers forced
* First in defensive touchdowns scored
* Third in passes defensed

The Ravens have recorded 11 sacks already this season, putting them on pace for 44 for the year. (Solid math by me, huh?) That would be a heck of a jump from last season, when the Ravens had a franchise-record low 27 sacks all year.

The defense has yet to allow a single point in the first quarter through four games - not a single point - and has only allowed just six fourth-quarter points all year, as well.

They've forced eight fumbles and recovered all eight. They've delivered 28 quarterback hits. They've limited teams to 72.5 rushing yards per game and held opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 52.7, ranking them third-best in the league in both categories.

And they've done all that without two of their top cornerbacks in Jimmy Smith - this year's first-round pick - and Chris Carr, who have been severely limited by injuries. If those two can come back healthy following the bye week, the front seven might even be able to ratchet up the pressure even more, knowing they'll have additional help on the back end.

Check out this quote from Jets coach Rex Ryan, who was the engineer of many of the Ravens' top defensive performances over the years, after Sunday night's game: "The performance by their defense was spectacular. You've just got to give them credit. It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses. I don't know what else to say. We got it handed to us."

Quite a compliment from a guy who has seen some dominating defenses.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has dialed up the pressure this season, and is forcing opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks to deal with the chaos up front and make quick decisions under pressure.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is playing out of his mind, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs appears poised to put up another monster campaign, Ray Lewis has been a stat-sheet stuffer in the middle and safety Ed Reed already has two interceptions and a forced fumble.

The Ravens have elite playmakers at all three levels and are getting major contributions from complimentary guys like Jarret Johnson, Terrence Cody, Cory Redding and Lardarius Webb.

I won't be making any comparisons to the 2000 or 2006 defensive units, but I do know that if Pagano's group keeps playing at this level, big things could be in store for this team the rest of this season.

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