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WHOSE DEFENSE IS THIS?
In the season opener, we faced Rex Ryan's defense against the Jets.
This Sunday, we'll face Dick LeBeau's defense in Pittsburgh.
There was the Buddy Ryan defense, the Bill Belichick defense, and the Saints have the Gregg Williams defense…and on and on.
Quick, who's the Ravens' defensive coordinator? Many of you know. Some of you know the names listed above better.
When I asked Greg Mattison, the Ravens' defensive coordinator, on Wednesday to describe our defense, he didn't hesitate. "It's the Ravens' defense."
"So, it's not the Greg Mattison defense," I said. "No," Matti said, "I've never invented anything, and it will never be about me. You know why we're good? You know why we were good last year? Because we have a lot of really, really good players. And one of reasons for success is that we don't have coaches or players worried about who's getting credit for what we do."
We can all describe the Ravens' defense. It's aggressive, it's hard-hitting. It's multiple, and it's physically tough.
"What's great about this defense is that we're so interchangeable," Ray Lewis said. "Without subbing, we can go from a three-four to a four-three. We can go two-deep, or three-across, to man-to-man without anyone coming into the game. That makes it hard for offenses to match us.
"We have linebackers that can play inside and outside, can put their hand in the dirt [to rush the passer] or cover out in the flat," Lewis continued. "We trust each other. That's a beautiful thing. We trust the coaches with the calls, and we trust each other on the field. And, we hustle. We all go to the ball. Yeah, we'll get beat. Every defense gets beat. That happens. But, we're always ready for the next play."
Take the Browns and that monster running back, Peyton Hillis, who blasted us last Sunday. With their line knocking us back on some plays, a couple of missed assignments by our defense and three Hillis runs that accounted for 85 of his 144 yards, Cleveland's running game had us on our heels last Sunday.
But, with the close game on the line in the fourth quarter, what happened to Hillis? His last three runs against us went for 1, -1 and 3 yards. Pretty good run defense when it counted the most.
"We're all disappointed that we didn't stop the run the way the Ravens usually do," Mattison offered. "But, we loved the way they stepped up in the end. That's playing like a Raven."
Which gets us back to what is the Ravens' defense? "We are taking something from all of our coaches and some stuff from our players. Whatever works is what we do," Mattison explained.
Come on Coach, there has to be more.
"Well, John [Harbaugh] brought us some of the principals that Jimmy Johnson used in Philadelphia. That includes pressure packages [attacks on the quarterback] with sound zone schemes in the coverages behind that pressure," Mattison explained. "We did so many good things with Rex as coordinator, we certainly kept a lot of those packages. Why throw out what works?
"Now, we brought Dean [Pees] to our staff, and we've added some of what made the Patriots' defenses so good," Matti said. Pees is Baltimore's new linebackers coach. He came to the Ravens after six seasons with Belichick in New England. Pees coordinated the Pats' defense the last four years, which included four playoff teams, an undefeated regular season and a Super Bowl appearance. ["Coach Pees has brought a lot to us," according to Lewis.]
Mattison wasn't done spreading the credit about the Ravens' defense. "I think Clarence [Brooks] is the best defensive line coach in the NFL. He teaches technique better than anyone. He's a motivator, and his players love him and don't want to let him down when they play. I could say the same things for Chuck [Pagano]. Look what he did with the banged-up secondary late last season. Look what he's doing now. And Clarence and Chuck have been around. They add to our game plans every week," Mattison bragged.
Greg also pointed out how new outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino has already impacted our pass rush and gotten "the best out of Terrell Suggs." Finally, Greg said "Don't forget Roy [Anderson], who is a good young coach who has helped get the secondary better."
These coaches and defensive players will be tested in Pittsburgh. The good news for the defense is that they communicate better with each other on the road because the crowd is quiet when the offense has the ball. I mentioned to Coach Mattison that the Steelers will probably try to pound the ball at us because of Cleveland's success last Sunday. "No kidding, I would too. Let's see if that happens two weeks in a row against us," he replied.
Should be interesting. You know, our defense is not that bad. It is, currently, the No. 1 defense in the NFL [the League measures by fewest yards allowed]. In Mattison's first season as our defensive coordinator in 2009, we were third in the NFL. Let's see what we can do at the stadium that sits on the banks of three rivers.
With all the rain, we practiced indoors yesterday. As I walked out of the indoor field before the practice, Ray Lewis was about to enter the covered practice site. At the end of the long hallway leading to the entrance, Haloti Ngata hurried around the corner yelling "Ray, Ray!" Lewis turned around and walked toward Ngata. "What's up big man?" Lewis said. "Nothing," Ngata explained as he whisked by Ray: "I just didn't want to be the last to walk into practice." Ray just laughed…so did the big man. Kids.
Hey, we don't want to be last this Sunday in Pittsburgh. Let's beat them and get into a tie for first place. It'd be a good way to finish a stretch of three road games in four weeks to start the season.
Talk with you next week.
Kevin Byrne , a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.