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Defense Facing Problems On Multiple Fronts

Posted Oct 25, 2012

Houston attacked on the ground and air. And the defense is taking loads of snaps.


Defensive end Paul Kruger and linebacker Jameel McClain were the only two defensive players to talk to the media Tuesday before players broke for the bye.

There wasn’t much they –or anybody – could say at this point.

The Houston Texans got nine points from their defense, but the offense also put up 420 yards and 34 points. The yards aren’t an anomaly. Baltimore’s historically strong defense is hurting, giving up 400 yards per game to rank 26th in the NFL.

"I feel like we all are disappointed in what we’ve done at this point,” McClain said.

"It’s definitely frustrating, because we know it’s a higher standard in this organization, and we are here to uphold it. It’s something that we’ve done before, and we still can continue to do it. We just have to get it done.”

If the Ravens are going to improve, they’re going to have to do it on multiple fronts.

It looked like Baltimore was mostly susceptible to the run after the Week 5 and 6 games against Kansas City and Dallas, respectively. The Ravens allowed 214 rushing yards to the Chiefs and a franchise-high 227 to the Cowboys, despite an injury to their top running back.

But after cornerback Lardarius Webb went down with a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, Houston had its way on the ground and through the air.

The Ravens kept premier running back Arian Foster under 100 yards (98 yards), but the Texans rushed for 181 total and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

Houston also threw the ball well. Quarterback Matt Schaub completed 23 of 37 passes (62 percent) for 256 yards and two scores. He posted a 100.7 quarterback rating.

"People are doing good things against us all over the field,” Kruger said. "There are a lot of corrections that need to be made, and we’re working on those. Everybody’s fighting to do that. We are our own worst critics.”

One reason opponents are putting up so many yards on the Ravens defense is that it’s on the field for a lot of snaps. The more snaps played, the more yards a defense is going to surrender, and the more tired it’s going to get.

The Ravens defense has taken the most snaps in the NFL – 407. There are a couple of primary reasons.

The offense’s movement a hurry-up passing attack this season has turned up the tempo and allowed for more possessions for both teams. That’s something the coaching staff is going to consider altering during the bye.

The other reason is the defense isn’t getting off the field on its own. The defense is allowing 7.1 yards per offensive touch, which actually ranks ninth-best in the NFL. But it’s 22nd in the league on third down, allowing opponents to convert 41.7 percent of the time.

Baltimore’s defense has just 15 three-and-outs, ranking 23rd in the NFL in percentage. The unit would see fewer snaps if it would get off the field earlier.

"It gets tiring. That’s how games are. Right now, we’re playing a lot of snaps; we’re on the field a lot,” Kruger said.

"But we love to play football – that’s not the issue. The issue is what we’re doing out there. Playing a lot of snaps, it does have a wear and tear on your body. It’s hard to make those plays over and over again, but that’s no excuse.”

Injuries have also been a problem. Baltimore won all four games without Ray Lewis (toe) last year. But this year, there have been injuries to all of the Ravens’ defensive Pro Bowlers.

There’s Webb, who may have been on his way to a Pro Bowl. There’s defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who’s nursing a knee injury and left him playing just 48 of 80 snaps last week. There’s also safety Ed Reed, who said he has a shoulder injury and missed five snaps Sunday after a big collision. Terrell Suggs just returned after missing the first six games.

The good news for the Ravens is that the three later players should benefit from the bye week. Suggs can get stronger and Reed and Ngata can get needed rest.

McClain didn’t blame the defense’s struggles in Houston on the loss of Lewis and Webb.

"No disrespect to them or no way for anybody to take this out of context, but those yards were given up while they were in there,” McClain said. "This is a problem that was happening with them, and it’s a problem that’s happening without them.”

"It’s just something, right now, that we have to focus on as a defense, and what we have in front of us, and get it corrected."

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