Nobody is asking where the Ravens’ pass rush is anymore.
Baltimore recorded a season-high seven sacks Sunday, setting the tone for a dominant defensive performance during a 41-7 victory over the Houston Texans.
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon (two sacks), led the way with a dominant performance.
“He was incredible,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “The energy he brought to the table, the speed of the power rush, he was pretty explosive. ... It might have been his best game.”
With that said, the pass rushers are getting help. The Ravens’ secondary is creating coverage sacks, forcing opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball because they can’t find open receivers.
On Judon’s strip sack of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on the first play of the game, he held the ball for 10.3 seconds before Judon knocked it away. It was the longest amount of time a quarterback has held the ball prior to a sack during the last two years, according to Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network.
Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network calls the Ravens secondary the best in the league, working in concert with the pass rush to cause problems for any quarterback.
Judon’s strip sack was the first indication that he would be that he would spend the day in the backfield wrecking plays.
Whatever game plan the Texans had for blocking Judon didn’t work. With increased responsibility this season as the team’s top returning pass rusher, Judon has stepped up with a team-leading six sacks, and he has also been consistent as a run defender. Sacks often come in bunches, and Judon glad to see his hard work reap rewards.
“I just had to come out and get a good start,” Judon said. “It's not like I've been rushing bad. I just feel like some of the quarterbacks we've been facing got the ball out of their hands quicker, and I just stayed in pursuit today like I've been doing the whole year. We all know, man, you can go on a drought, and then you can catch fire in an instant.”
The addition of cornerback Marcus Peters joining a strong Ravens secondary has forced quarterbacks to hold the ball longer. The Ravens already led the league in quarterback hits, so they have been close to sacks all season. With improved coverage causing just a little more hesitation from quarterbacks, the pass rushers are getting home.
With Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Earl Thomas and Chuck Clark playing at a high level, there is no weak link in Baltimore’s secondary. In Peters’ four games with Baltimore, the Ravens have held in check three of the league’s top quarterbacks – Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Watson.
Head Coach John Harbaugh never bought the narrative that Baltimore’s pass rush was a liability. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser had two sacks Sunday, continuing his solid play over the past month. Meanwhile, rookie third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson is playing with more confidence each week and got his first career sack Sunday.
“It wasn’t bad before, it was good before,” Harbaugh said of Baltimore’s pass rush. “Nothing’s different we just got there. We’ve been getting quarterback hits up to that point. I really think the pass rush has been good all year. The fact that we got the seven sacks and got the reward this game is awesome.”
Ravens Received Lift From Domato Peko and Justin Ellis
With defensive tackle Michael Pierce (ankle) missing his first game of the season Sunday, both Domato Peko and Justin Ellis made their Ravens debuts after being signed during the week. Peko started and played 22 snaps, and Ellis played 21. Harbaugh was pleased with their performance.
“Both those guys stepped right in there and you have to give them a lot of credit,” Harbaugh said. “To step in there like that off the street so to speak. To be in that kind of shape? That’s not easy to do. They got over 20 plays apiece out there and did a heck of a job. It’s really good for our team. It gives us starter-type level depth across the board.”
The presence of Peko and Ellis helped ease the burden on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who played 33 snaps after playing a season-high 59 snaps the week before in Cincinnati. The Texans’ high-ranked rushing attack was held to 122 yards on 20 rushes. A 41-yard touchdown run late in the game skewed the numbers too.
“I really just want to shout out to the new guys,” Judon said. “We got two new guys: Peko and 'Jelly' [Ellis], and they came out there, and they executed the game plan. And 'Baby' Williams was dominant in the middle.”
Michael Pierce Has a Chance to Play Sunday
Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce (ankle) missed his first game of the season Sunday, but Harbaugh hopes Pierce makes enough progress this week to play Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams. Harbaugh said Pierce had a chance to play against the Texans.
“I’d assume he’s got a better chance for this Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “You just never know how it’s going to go.”
Wide receiver Chris Moore (thumb) is another player Harbaugh hopes to get back this week. Moore missed Sunday’s game and his presence would be an asset on special teams.
Start Time for Ravens-49ers on Dec. 1 Remains Unchanged
The NFL announced which games would be flexed to later start times in Week 13. The Ravens game vs. the San Francisco 49ers will remain at 1 p.m at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Raiders-Chiefs AFC West matchup will be moved from 1 p.m. to 4:25, while the Steelers-Browns rematch of the wild game on Thursday night will move from 4:25 p.m. to 1. The Patriots vs. Texans will remain the Sunday night game.