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Ravens Tackling Multiple Issues In Secondary

Posted Sep 10, 2013

Baltimore is working on schemes, fundamentals that should limit big plays and communication.


Cornerback Corey Graham and his teammates in the secondary didn’t enjoy Monday’s film session from their 22-point loss in Denver. They didn’t play like themselves.

“It was tough,” Graham said. “It definitely was – especially when you’re watching film and guys are out of character and not doing things that they normally do.”

After yielding an NFL-record tying seven touchdowns to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the Ravens have a laundry list of issues they’re working on in the secondary.

Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to scheme issues, poor fundamentals (especially under pressure), and communication problems.

“That kind of performance – in the end – is never going to be acceptable,” Harbaugh said. “We’re capable of playing far better than that and we have to.”

The Ravens’ scheme issues, Harbaugh said, are a coaching issue. He said the Ravens need to make sure they’re running plays and the plays are being taught in such a way that they can be executed quickly. Opposing offenses, especially Denver’s, pick up the tempo, and the Ravens defense can’t be caught out of position or with the wrong personnel groupings.

Then there are the fundamentals, such as tackling. The Ravens gave up 259 yards after the catch, more than any defense had allowed in a single game over the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Broncos’ first touchdown was set up by a 44-yard gain by tight end Julius Thomas after safety Michael Huff could have stopped him after 14 yards. Huff went in high to try to make an arm tackle against the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Thomas.

Denver’s final touchdown, wiping out Baltimore’s chance at a comeback, came off a bubble screen to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Thomas went untouched for 78 yards when rookie safety Matt Elam got sucked inside and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Michael Huff were blocked out of the play.

“Our issue was the big plays,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t give up a screen for a touchdown. That’s just not acceptable. You can’t leave guys wide open. You can’t miss tackles that turn into big plays.”

Another problem was communication, which is somewhat understandable considering the Ravens had two new starting safeties and cornerback Lardarius Webb was playing in his first regular-season game since Week 6 of last season.

Wes Welker was left wide open for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter when Graham and Webb were both left covering Thomas. Harbaugh said they were playing techniques. Graham put it on his shoulders, saying he locked in on the No. 1 receiver and didn’t see that he needed to make a switch.

Graham didn’t attribute the communication issues to not having Ray Lewis and Ed Reed barking at the defense. He simply said that with so many new pieces, the unit will have to grow together.

“It takes time,” Graham said. “Anything in football takes time, especially when you’re trying to get 11 people to be on the same page at once.”

Despite all the negatives the secondary did play well in spurts. It did a solid job against Manning in the first half. Overall, the Ravens gave up 309 yards passing on just seven plays. Manning’s 153 other passing yards came on the other 67 plays.

“We believe we’re capable of being a very good football team,” Harbaugh said. “But we’ve got to make it happen.”

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