Baltimore football fans are accustomed to watching blitzing, aggressive defenses that can throw opposing offenses into a frenzy.
This year's Ravens defense has struggled to disrupt offenses like that through the first five games this year – especially when protecting a lead in the fourth quarter – but as Head Coach John Harbaugh looks for ways to improve the unit, he clearly wants to maintain an aggressive play-calling philosophy.
"Generally we're going to blitz close to half the time," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "That's pretty much a measuring stick for us. We're a blitzing team. We want to continue to do that."
The Ravens may have to rely more on the blitz this year because of the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs. Now Elvis Dumervil is dealing with a groin injury, potentially leaving the Ravens with Courtney Upshaw and Za'Darius Smith as the main outside pass rushers.
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has to be strategic with his blitz calls in a game.
Sending an extra pass rusher can get pressure on the quarterback, but it also leaves the defensive backs on more of an island in the secondary. The cornerbacks and safeties have struggled in coverage at times this year, so leaving them in one-on-one situations opens the Ravens up to potentially giving up big plays.
"Balance is kind of a hard way to define it because balance is when you have success. That's what you're looking for," Harbaugh said. "We have success a high percentage of the time, but then we give up big plays, or we don't get people stopped in two-minute [drives] or in the fourth quarter, and we don't have success."
The Ravens brought a heavy dose of blitzes against the Browns last week * *with inside linebackers C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith, and safety Terrence Brooks all getting their chances to pressure quarterback Josh McCown. Trying to manufacture that pressure through blitzing didn't work well as the Browns protected McCown and he threw for 457 yards.
But Harbaugh and Pees went back through the tape of all 90 defensive snaps to determine where they should have made some different play calls, and they both picked out the same three plays they wished they would have run something different.
That's not a bad rate, and it means Pees will stick with same type of play calling going forward and will make changes elsewhere.
"We felt like we'd like to have those calls back," Harbaugh said. "And the other calls are calls that when we had situations, they just need to be played better and coached better, and the technique needs to be trained better."
Part of the difficulty for Pees is that quarterbacks are finding success when the Ravens bring the blitz. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 38-of-59 passes for 565 yards with six touchdowns and an interception when the Ravens blitz. Their combined quarterback rating is 122.49, giving the Ravens defense the second worst mark in the league.
Baltimore's defense does have 10 sacks on those plays, second-best in the league. "We have to play, I would say, with more aggressiveness," Harbaugh said. "Play with more confidence. Play it. And go cover people. Go attack the quarterback."