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Harbaugh: We're Giving Up Too Many Yards

Posted Sep 30, 2012

Head Coach John Harbaugh wants the defense to tighten up on allowing big plays.

The Ravens defense hasn't looked like the feared unit of years past through the first month of the 2012 season.

Baltimore is giving up yards in bunches, and the group currently ranks 25th in the NFL for allowing an average of 390 yards per game.

"We aren't happy about that," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said Friday. "We don't want to give up those yards."

Most of the yardage has come through the air, as three of the four opposing quarterbacks – Michael Vick (371 yards), Tom Brady (335) and Brandon Weeden (320) – have thrown from more than 300 yards.

The problem, Harbaugh said, is that the Ravens are allowing too many big plays.

"We are giving up too many yards right now on basically chunk plays," he said. "It's been that way all year. We've had three, four, five chunk plays every game that have accounted for probably between 100 or 200 yards, I would say. And that's the stuff we really keep working on to clean up."

The saving grace for the Ravens defense has been they've come up with stops and turnovers when needed. The Ravens are currently tied for third best in the NFL with nine takeaways.

In Thursday's win over Cleveland, cornerback Cary Williams made a game-changing interception and returned it for a touchdown in the third quarter, which stopped the Browns' momentum and gave the Ravens a two-score lead they would hold for the victory.

In the Week 3 win over the Patriots, the defense stopped New England at the end of the game, setting up a game-winning drive for Joe Flacco and the offense.

"The bottom line is finding a way to win the game," Harbaugh said. "Red zone defense is big. Not giving up touchdown plays as big plays is really important. Turnovers are really big, especially if you score like we did."

Part of the issue for the Ravens is that a number of players are young. Baltimore's defense is best recognized for its elder stars like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but the group is young at a number of different positions.

Outside linebacker Albert McClellan is in his first season of significant playing time. Rookie Courtney Upshaw and second-year defensive end Pernell McPhee are both starting regularly for the first time. Second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith is getting considerable time as the Ravens routinely use the nickel package.

The Ravens are also still getting adjusted to life without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs.

"We are a young defense in a lot of ways," Harbaugh said.

The defense will get another test next Sunday, as the Kansas City Chiefs currently have the top-ranked offense in the NFL with an average of 441 yards per game.

"We are growing through some of those things, and we just have to keep working on that stuff," Harbaugh said.

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