The performance of the Ravens defense has uncharacteristically been a point of concern this season and some even wonder if there is hope for improvement.
With the unit ranked 26th in overall yards allowed, and injuries plaguing key players including Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, some media pundits are looking past the defense and believe that the Ravens' success will ultimately fall on the shoulders of the Joe Flacco and the offense.
But with half a season to play, several Ravens defenders are confident that they can get back to being one of the NFL's feared defenses. Their goals of repeating as AFC North champs and contending for a Super Bowl are still very much in play, and they believe the defense will make the necessary improvements for that to happen.
"Traditionally, you need a great defense to achieve those things, and we are going to get back to being a great defense," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said Wednesday.
A number of defenders expressed confidence that they have to clean up some mistakes, and the results could be a much-improved unit.
"If we can improve on our mistakes, it's going to be a different defense," linebacker Jameel McClain said.
The mistakes that McClain said are most apparent are errors in communication. The same has been true of the offense at times this season, and cleaning up the communication problems could make a big difference with the defense.
"It's a total communication thing," McClain said. "It's communication within yourself and it's communication with the person next to you. But then it's a knowledge of the game – what to expect at a certain time and what's going to happen – but that comes with time. Those types of things don't come overnight to anybody."
Safety Bernard Pollard said that the overall performance of the defense this season has been a tough pill to swallow.
"We are a prideful group, and there are times when we've had to eat that humble pie," safety Bernard Pollard said. "Eating that humble pie, it sucks."
Despite the struggles, a number of key defenders expressed confidence that the group can rebound in the second half of the season.
"Nobody has pressed the panic button and nobody is going to press the panic button," Pollard said.
"We know it's not the traditional numbers that you all are used to, but I think you all are weighing in too much on it," Suggs added. "It's not the end of the world."
They also emphasized that the team is still 6-2, and in very favorable position to make another postseason push.
"Everything we still want to do, all the goals we set at the beginning of the season are still there," Suggs said. "Your goal is to win your division, get the first-round bye and make it to the playoffs and contend for the Super Bowl."
The Ravens showed some improvement Sunday against the Browns by holding Cleveland to field goals on their five trips inside the red zone. While they have given up big chunks of yardage this season, the Ravens have tightened up in the red zone and rank 11th in the NFL in allowed 24.9 points per game.
The key now is bringing that success inside the red zone to the other parts of the field.
"If we just improve on our mistakes like we do in the red zone, and we can do that beyond that point, then it's going to be different," McClain said.