Ravens Defense Facing Stiffest Test Yet 'By Far' With Lions

CB Marlon Humphrey

Despite widespread injuries, the Ravens defense ranks No. 2 in the league and has given up just five touchdowns in six games, by far the fewest in the league.

Heading into the year, two of the biggest concerns with the team were its injury-riddled secondary, which has given up the second-fewest passing yards in the league, and the pass rush, which is tied for the league lead in sacks with 24.

It's been a dominant start for Baltimore's defense, but it will face its toughest test yet this Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Through the first six weeks, the Ravens have faced a rookie quarterback (Texans), two backup quarterbacks (Colts and Browns), and three of the lowest-ranked offenses in the league (Bengals, Steelers, and Titans).

The Lions, on the other hand, enter Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium ranked No. 3 in total offense (383.7 yards per game) and fourth in points per game (28). Quarterback Jared Goff is fifth in the NFL in passing yards (1,618).

Detroit (5-1) has won four straight and 13 of its last 16 games. On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh called the Lions "arguably the best team in the NFC right now." On Wednesday, veteran outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney took it a step further. Asked whether the Lions have the best offense the Ravens have faced so far this season, Clowney said, "Yes, by far."

"Jared Goff makes them go. I think he's smart, smart quarterback," Clowney said. "Their run game has been very, very dominating so far. … It's going to come down to us up front like I said – dominate the line of scrimmage and get after the quarterback."

Clowney said he thinks the game will come down to the Ravens' defensive line versus the Lions' offensive line, which is loaded with three homegrown first-round picks. They're giving Goff, a quarterback that doesn't take a whole lot of risks, time to make his reads and deliver on time.

"That guy is playing good ball right now," linebacker Roquan Smith said of Goff. "The picture is clear for him. He makes a lot of good throws in the intermediate game, as well as, he takes his shots when he needs them. They have the team playing to his strengths, so [my] hat's off to him."

Goff grew up in the Lions' system, learning it from Sean McVay back with the Los Angeles Rams and now perfecting it with second-year Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson.

"They're executing at a high level. That starts with the quarterback – Jared's doing a great job with it," Harbaugh said. "He just knows how to run those plays really well. I think [the] timing is really good. The receivers are on the same page – the [running] backs and everything."

The Lions' receiving attack is led by wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who had 38 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta has the second-most targets on the team and has used them to pile up 325 yards and three scores, making him one of the league's most productive rookie receivers along with Ravens first-round wideout Zay Flowers.

"He's a guy that's really good in the slot; tough guy; good guy after the catch," safety Geno Stone said. "So, he's probably their best player, I would say, on the offensive side of the ball, and they're going to try and get him going. So, we have to try to limit as much as we can on the defensive side for him."

While the Ravens are showing plenty of respect for the Lions this week, Baltimore's defense also isn't going to kowtow.

"We've played some tough guys already. Are they the toughest we'll face? We'll see on Sunday," cornerback Brandon Stephens said. "I don't want to give too much praise before we play them already, but we respect those guys. It should be a good game."

Smith hasn't been shy to talk the talk this season, and after a three-game road trip, he'll have the Ravens defense motivated to defend M&T Bank Stadium's home turf, especially after taking a loss at home in Week 3.

"We'll be ready to welcome those guys here," Smith said. "They're playing good ball, but, hey, I'm from the 'Show Me' business, so you have to show me."

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