Defensive Sack Party Keeps Ravens In Game


Ray Rice's miraculous fourth-and-29 conversion is what people will be talking about from Sunday's comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers.

Rice's late-game heroics stole the show, but it was the Ravens stout defense that held the Chargers at bay and kept Baltimore in the game while its offense was struggling for three and a half quarters.

Led by a ferocious pass rush that netted a season-high six sacks, the defense had arguably its finest performance of the season and made the 16-13 comeback win possible.

"I'm really proud of the pass rush," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I'm really proud of the defense, not to allow that to be lost in the conversation. Our defense played so well."

The Ravens received contributions across the board, as five different players came up with a sack. Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger, Courtney Upshaw, Dannell Ellerbe and Arthur Jones (two) all registered sacks on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who was visibly frustrated at times.

Suggs pointed to a "sense of urgency" from the defensive front when asked what allowed the unit* *to have such a strong day.

"It's just confidence," Suggs said. "They don't put the pressure on just one guy. It's like everybody going out there and taking it upon themselves to rush the passer. It's been working out for us."

The pass rush came from a variety of sources and packages, as Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees dialed up some creative blitzes to get after the quarterback. Ellerbe's sack came on a blitz up the middle, and the Ravens also narrowly missed a couple other sacks with blitzes from linebackers and defensive backs off the edge.  

"Dean made great calls to let some linebackers get into the backfield," Kruger said. "Just overall a great night."

The pass rush has been steadily improving in recent weeks, as the Ravens have 12 sacks in their last three games. They now have 25 total on the season.

The defense overall has been on the rise during the second half of the season, and limiting a potent offense led by the Pro Bowler Rivers showed that despite all the concern over the dip in a number of statistical categories, the defense can still carry the team.

"We knew we had to do that to win the game," Kruger said. "[Rivers] can be a dangerous guy when he's got time back there. We really needed to get to him and some guys came up huge."

The effort from the defense goes beyond the group's production in the pass-rush department. The coverage in the secondary was tight throughout the night and the unit also limited running back Ryan Mathews, who was held to 72 yards on 19 carries.

"I really like the way we got after the run in the second half and into the fourth quarter," Harbaugh said. "Those 4- and 5- and 6-yard gains went to 1- and 2- and 3-yard gains. That was huge for us."

The defense stepped up on a night where the offense took a while to get into a rhythm. The offense didn't get on the board until the third quarter and went through a stretch of three three-and-outs during the first half. Tough defense kept the Chargers from racking up points as the offense stuttered.

The timing of the defensive stops was also critical. When the Ravens needed to get the ball in the hands of their offense, the defense came through in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Ravens held the Chargers to a field goal after a 13-play drive in the fourth quarter, and then forced a three-and-out with three minutes, nine seconds remaining in regulation, which set up Rice's run and Justin Tucker's game-tying field goal.

In overtime, the defense showed up again. The Chargers got the ball first and had two possessions, but the Ravens never allowed them to get into field-goal range and forced two quick punts.

"It was a great team win," Suggs said. "It shows that we can win a football game any type of way required."

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