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Ravens Secondary Cautious Of Cardinals' Big Plays


Cornerback Jimmy Smith asked himself the questions this week when surrounded by reporters. He knew what was coming. 

"What do we expect from the Arizona Cardinals?" Smith asked.

Answering his own question, he replied: "They've got a very good offensive attack. They've got some very good skill players; [Larry] Fitzgerald is still doing it. Their running backs – they're getting a lot of yards, and Carson Palmer is looking really good. He's getting the ball, he's dropping dimes and he's looking pretty good."

Then Smith turned to the Ravens secondary.

"As far as our defensive plan, we've got to contain that," Smith said. "We can't let big plays happen. They've been happening. Obviously, they can't happen again. Going into this game on Monday night, primetime television, our job is to stop that. We will."

There you have it.

The Cardinals have a high-flying, deep passing attack that is filling up the stat sheet this fall:

  • They rank second in the NFL in completions of 20 yards or above (27).
  • Palmer is rising from the Phoenix desert at age 35 and is currently fourth in the NFL in passing yards (1,737).
  • Eight-time Pro Bowl receiver Fitzgerald is fourth in the league in receiving yards (583).
  • Fellow wide receiver John Brown is right behind Steve Smith Sr. in receiving yards with 497 to Smith's 510. Palmer recently dubbed Brown the fastest player in the league.

The Ravens have been giving up big plays in chunks:

  • The Ravens have allowed 25 completions of 20 or more yards, the third most in the league.
  • The Ravens have given up six touchdown passes on plays of 20 yards or more, tied for the most in the NFL.
  • Baltimore has faced 47 passes that have traveled at least 16 yards in the air, the fourth-most in the league.
  • Last week, the 49ers' only two touchdowns came on a 76-yard reception by wide receiver Torrey Smith and 21-yard catch by wide receiver Quinton Patton. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick averaged 21.25 yards per completion.

On paper, it doesn't look good for the Ravens secondary. They know their mission.

"We cannot give up big plays," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "It's a broken record, but until we quit doing that, statistically, we're going to look terrible."

So how do the Ravens do it?

Pees said it's not a scheme problem. There are only a few schemes used in pass defense and everybody knows them. It's a matter of how well those schemes are played, he said.

It's about keeping a players' eyes in the right place and staying disciplined. It's about playing free, but not freelancing and taking too many chances, which gets a player out of position.

"We've just got to keep fighting it and keep the ball inside and in front of us," Pees said. "It is not rocket science."

Pees jokingly pledged to reporters on Wednesday that he wouldn't go on a podium rant, but it was clear that he found it difficult to reign in his passion a day later.

"The problem sometimes is we're getting beat on things that just absolutely can't get beat on," he said. "I don't care who you are back in the backend or where ever it is. It's just not acceptable, and that's what is frustrating."

Safety Will Hill broke it down to three factors: discipline, tendencies and keys in reading offenses.

"I know I've been undisciplined. Other players have been undisciplined," Hill said. "This is a deep-ball team, so we'll be ready."

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