While plenty of questions are being asked about the Ravens’ defense, Head Coach John Harbaugh does not question the effort of safety Earl Thomas.
Nick Chubb’s 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter is a lasting image from Sunday’s 40-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns. It was the longest run ever allowed by Baltimore, as the Ravens yielded more than 500 yards for the second straight week.
As Chubb raced past Thomas with a clear path to the end zone, Thomas stopped running at full speed in pursuit, saying after the game, “I tried to get there and couldn’t get there. It wasn’t worth pulling my hamstring. I’ve been there before trying to chase DeAndre Hopkins down on a screen, pulled a hamstring and was out. I wasn’t doing that today.”
Asked about Thomas’ comments at his Monday press conference, Harbaugh supported the six-time Pro Bowl safety.
"He was a good bit behind Chubb in that situation as I watched the tape, wasn’t going to catch him,” Harbaugh said. “Yeah, we want everybody to finish. But if he felt some tightness in his hamstrings right there, I’m glad he’s out of the game healthy in all honesty.
“I want everybody to run to the ball every play, as much as they can. But I think it’s pro football. You have to respect a pro athlete in that situation that feels a certain way. I certainly don’t want a hamstring pull right there from our starting safety. I take him at his word.”
Baltimore’s defense is now ranked 25th in the NFL, and Thomas plays a key role in that defense after being signed to a four-year contract during free agency. Transitioning to a new system after nine years in Seattle, Thomas is a player who will be counted on to help the Ravens’ defense become more consistent. Baltimore has given up far too many big plays, allowing three plays of more than 50 yards on Sunday.
However, Harbaugh believes Thomas will become an impact player in Baltimore as he continues his transition from Seattle’s system to Baltimore’s.
“We play a little more split safety than they play,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s getting a good feel for that. He comes down, he blitzes, he plays robber, as you put it. We plan man, he cuts routes, he’s in the middle like he was in Seattle. It’s a different defense, but it’s still football.
“He’s doing a good job. He made eight tackles yesterday. He could’ve had a few more that he’s mad about. I’m pleased with where he’s at, and to me he’s only going to get better in the system as he gets a better feel for it.”
Harbaugh Explains Issue on Big Pass Plays
At or near the top of the Ravens’ to-do list this week is stopping big plays, and the first step is identifying the causes. Harbaugh said in their effort to make a play, some Ravens are running themselves out of position.
“We’re chasing some patterns that fall in the category of trying to do too much,” Harbaugh said. “That’s not what we need to do. You just need to do your job, be in your right spot and play football. We have a fast team. We have guys that can play the ball. I think we’re overplaying some of our zone coverages.”
Tackling is another area in which the Ravens need to improve. On his 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter Sunday, Chubb alluded four tacklers. Multiple Ravens also bounced off wide receiver Jarvis Landry on a 65-yard catch and run.
“We’re not a defense that doesn’t tackle, never have been,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not a defense that gives up big pass plays. We’re not going to be that this year. It’s going to get fixed.”
Jefferson Wears Microphoned Helmet, Experience a Factor
Veteran safety Tony Jefferson wore the helmet with the microphone helmet Sunday, after inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor wore the helmet it during the first three weeks. The player with the helmet is the one first in charge of relaying Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s play-call.
Harbaugh said Jefferson’s’ experience factored into the change.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t have any problems getting the calls out there. Tony did a good job with it, communicated well. We didn’t have any call issues, everybody knew the call. We just felt it’d be a little simpler that way. We did it last year with Eric (Weddle). Took a little bit off Peanut’s plate. It seemed like it worked out well. Tony’s a little older, he’s been around a little longer, so it seemed like a good move.”
Harbaugh Pleased With Run Blocking of O-Line
Baltimore rushed for 173 yards against Cleveland and averaged six yards per carry. It came against the best defensive front the Ravens have faced yet this season, and is an encouraging sign for the run offense moving forward.
That’s a trend that Harbaugh wants to see continue.
“I thought they played really well,” Harbaugh said. “The run game was tremendous. I thought we blocked them very well. Drives got stopped by us either having miscues, we stepped out of bounds, we dropped a pass, had the turnovers in the second half. But it wasn’t from them stopping our run. We blocked that front probably better than I thought we would.”
Check out the action from the Ravens' 40-25 loss to Cleveland at M&T Bank Stadium.