Ravens Blitzing and Hitting Quarterbacks, Hoping to Bust Their Way Into Postseason


In the process of beating the Ravens, Patrick Mahomes took a beatdown.

The Ravens hit Mahomes 15 times Sunday, including three sacks as Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith and Matthew Judon all got a piece of the Chiefs' talented young quarterback.

Mahomes withstood the onslaught and led Kansas City to a 27-24 overtime victory. But afterward, he credited the Ravens for making him uncomfortable.

"They're the real deal," Mahomes said. "They did a lot of things like cover zero or exotic blitzes. They really mixed it up. It was like it was a different coverage every single play. When you're a young quarterback, I haven't seen some of those things they were doing. I just tried to go out there and make some plays whenever I could."

Baltimore's defense hopes to continue harassing quarterbacks all the way to the playoffs. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale has clearly committed to dialing up pressure whether it's by blitzing, running stunts with defensive linemen and linebackers, or disguising coverages that make the opposing quarterback hesitate.

Right now, the Ravens are on a roll pressuring quarterbacks. In each of the last three games, the Ravens have recorded three sacks. During the previous four games, the Ravens had managed just three sacks combined, losing three of those games to New Orleans, Carolina, and Pittsburgh on consecutive weekends.

There are several reasons why the Ravens are getting to quarterbacks recently, even when the opposition anticipates a Baltimore blitz. Talented depth at cornerback led by Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young allows the Ravens to blitz often because they are not afraid to leave their corners in single coverage. One of the season's most impressive performances was a 26-16 win over Atlanta two weeks ago. The Ravens sacked quarterback Matt Ryan three times, hit him seven times, and limited the Falcons to a season-low 131 yards total offense.

"I do feel good about our pass rush," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Our guys are relentless. They're very energetic; they're strong guys. We do a lot with pressures and things like that – that's when the secondary comes in.

"It's not easy. It (Kansas City) was a heck of a challenge. It was a chess match in terms of us covering and finding matches and hiding our coverages, and their offense and their quarterback figuring when we were going to free up some guys."

Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid says the Ravens' defensive philosophy became more aggressive after a three-game losing streak dropped them to 4-5. The Ravens (7-6) are 3-1 since that three-game skid, with Lamar Jackson starting at quarterback and a dramatically improved running game, allowing the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense to play with more abandon.

"They made a commitment about three weeks ago, or four games ago to change things up," Reid said. "They did with the quarterback and defensively by pressuring. We knew coming in we were going to see some zero (blitzes) in all areas of the field and we had to be ready for it."

Baltimore's pass rush is coming from a variety of sources. Suggs, Smith, and Judon all have seven sacks, taking quarterbacks to the ground like a tag team. Mahomes, who leads the NFL in passing yards, admitted he didn't always know where Baltimore's sack attack would come from.

"They didn't want me to be comfortable," Mahomes said. "They didn't want me to know what was coming every single play. I felt like sometimes they rushed to get the sack, and other times they tried to just close in the pocket and keep me within the pocket. They had a good game plan that they were going to try and mix it up. It's easier said than done on defense because you've got to have the veteran guys and the talent to execute every single call."

Heading into Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Harbaugh likes the quarterback pressure the Ravens are generating. Some of the quick-release quarterbacks the Ravens faced this season like Drew Brees and Andy Dalton were hard for the Ravens to pressure effectively.

However, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is a drop-back style passer who has been sacked 22 times, and Baltimore's defense is tied for eighth in sacks with 38. Mahomes is a gifted quarterback who made several brilliant throws Sunday, but he was also pressured into errant passes, including one that was intercepted by Ravens safety Chuck Clark.

Baltimore would love to force Winston into turnovers this weekend. The Ravens only have 10 takeaways this season, fewer than any NFL team except the San Francisco 49ers, who have five. That's another reason the Ravens need to continue turning up the heat on quarterbacks. With three games left and a playoff berth at stake, this is no time for a passive approach.

"We need to win," Harbaugh said. "The way we look at it [is] we need to win three games in a row. We've been here before. Let's do it. But all we need to think about right now is Tampa Bay, our upcoming opponent, and play our best football on Sunday. That's what we'll be focused on doing."

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