Baltimore's Defense Made a Loud Statement With Second-Half Shutout


The Ravens are still the only NFL team that has not allowed a second-half touchdown.

That fact became even more impressive Sunday night, when the Ravens blanked the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half and left Heinz Field with an impressive 26-14 victory.

The Steelers had six possessions in the second half and zero points to show for it, capped by a fourth-quarter interception by Anthony Levine that pretty much sealed the win.

The Ravens (3-1) didn't want to talk much about their second-half defensive prowess before this game, but this performance spoke loudly.

In the previous two seasons, the Ravens lost late-game leads in Pittsburgh and suffered two defeats that led to them missing the playoffs. Those memories were painful, and the defense entered this season with something to prove against the Steelers' potent attack.

"Coming into this territory, we knew the story about the Ravens coming in here lately," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "Two losses to this team last year was two losses too many. So enough is enough. It didn't just start tonight. It started back in January, working our butts off to get ready for this season. Guys were prepared, ready to go from Day 1."

One quarter through the season, the Ravens' defense is showing an ability to adjust, and is playing its best when it matters most. Pitching a second-half shutout is difficult in today's NFL, especially on the road, especially against the Steelers who have proven weapons like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Individually, Roethlisberger and Brown were frustrated. Collectively, the Steelers' offense was frustrated.

The Steelers have been without star running back Le'Veon Bell all season due to his contract holdout, but they entered Week 4 with the NFL's second-ranked offense. For the players and coaching staff, it was a sweet feeling to turn the end zone into a restricted zone against the Steelers.

In an upbeat Ravens locker room, one of the game balls was awarded to first-year Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale, who players credited with calling a brilliant game. At the start of the week, Martindale told his unit that they were going to make the Steelers worry about what they were doing instead of the other way around.

"Wink was just a step ahead of them the entire game, to be honest," Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. "We brought out some things we hadn't shown this season, disguising. They couldn't run on us a bit. When you make a team one-dimensional. … It was fun. The way we've lost here the last couple of years has not been fun."

Sunday's second half wasn't fun for the Steelers. The Ravens mixed defensive coverages on Brown, sometimes shadowing him with cornerback Marlon Humphrey, sometimes double-teaming Brown, and changing their defensive personnel to give Roethlisberger multiple looks.

"Wink really called our offense, and our offense sustained drives," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "You've got to play mistake-free football against them to have some success."

After the game, Roethlisberger sought out Suggs to congratulate him, a gesture that Suggs appreciated.

"Just respect," Suggs said. "I've been part of this rivalry for 16 years. That team has raised my level of play. Even rivals can show respect. I respect him tremendously. The player I am is because of the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Pittsburgh never established rhythm in the second half, and the Ravens rarely looked caught by surprise. The return of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley after a one-game absence due to a knee injury certainly helped. However, it takes a group effort to contain an offense as potent as Pittsburgh's.

"The entire defense played well, it's hard to single anybody out," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

Levine said his interception was just a matter of anticipating Roethlisberger's throw. By that point in the game, the Steelers were trailing and had enjoyed little success.

"I got to my drop, read the quarterback's eyes and made a break on the ball," Levine said.

"I hadn't made a big play before in this rivalry. I wanted to tonight. We all knew how the last two games we played here ended, with the defense on the field. We didn't want it to end that way tonight."

The defense will receive more assistance this week when cornerback Jimmy Smith returns from his four-game suspension. Smith is often the cornerback assigned to the opponent's most dangerous receiver. Once Smith joins the fray, the Ravens believe they can take their defense to another level, regardless of who leaves the starting lineup.

But for now, the Ravens will savor this win. Harbaugh was asked whether Sunday's win had any additional meaning, and he at first seemed ready to downplay it. Then he stopped himself.

"Yes. Yes, it does," Harbaugh said. "We were here two years ago. We played our hearts out on Christmas Day and we played a very good football game and we got beat by six inches in the end. Came up here last year, played our hearts out again, put 38 points up, and left our hearts out there again on that field. It's final, who wins and who loses the game. So in some ways, this can be the end, but it's also the beginning in terms of where we're going from here. So, yeah, it's a pretty special win."

Check out the beat shots from Sunday Night Football in Pittsburgh.

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