Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison knows there are things to fix in the Ravens' defense, but he is not panicking.
After bring shredded for 247 and 261 passing yards by New England's Tom Brady and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer over the past two games, both losses, the Ravens – especially the secondary – are hoping to bounce back this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings and the strong arm of future Hall-of-Famer Brett Farve.
According to Mattison, there are more factors than just the play of the defensive backfield.
"People want to talk about the secondary, and that's the nature of that position," said Mattison. "In this league with the wide receivers, with the great quarterbacks, your secondary is always under the microscope. The thing that people have to realize, it's not always them. A lot of times when they're out there, we should have gotten more pressure."
Pressure on the quarterback can obviously help ease pressure on the secondary.
But the change in how the pressure is applied has changed with Mattison.
The Ravens, known for the all-out blitzes of former coordinator Rex Ryan, have been bringing heat from their basic front three or four, largely opting out of sending an extra safety, corner or linebacker to sack the quarterback.
The threat of the kamikaze blitz has led some of Baltimore's opponents to use extra protection for their passers.
"The thing that people are doing a little more to us – I guess it's because of the blitz potential – you're getting a lot more max protection," Mattison continued. "You're getting guys staying in. You saw that last week a lot. Which, again now, you either have to decide to bring an over, over, over load, and you've all seen what happens if you don't hit with those. Or you rush three and try to get maximum coverage. That's going to have the quarterback hold the ball longer and that puts a lot of pressure on a secondary."
An average NFL play last between four and five seconds. Asking defensive backs to cover for more than that is a tall order.
The Ravens have supplemented the position in recent years with the drafting of safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura and cornerback Lardarius Webb, not to mention the offseason signings of Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr.
Mattison, who was lured to Baltimore after 12 years as a college defensive coordinator, believes that no matter how much talent a team has on defense, professional offenses can match those playmakers.
"In the pro game, you have three or four tremendous wideouts, and every week ,you're going against the best quarterback in the country," Mattison explained. "That's the difference between college and the pros. The other thing that plays into action is the hashes. That moves everything in the middle of the field, which puts added pressure on the corners."
As for the run defense, Mattison has continued the tradition of the Ravens holding their ground. The unit is ranked fourth in the league by allowing only 76.0 yards per game.
While the secondary is still working to get on the same page, Mattison believes both parts of the defense need improvement.
"You can't pinpoint one aspect of the defense and say that is the problem," he said. "It takes a lot of moving parts to make it work. A sack or an interception may look like an individual play, but all the units work together to make a play.
"It's the entire defense. When the ball is completed for a sizeable gain, it looks like it falls on the corners. The thing that I see is that they're working to better every day. We've got some players, and they're getting coached well. There is no way we're panicking, because we're going to be fine."