Ravens Secondary Saves Its Best for Last

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It wasn't long after Sunday's game ended, maybe an hour-and-a-half, before Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth vented to the public about his performance in the Ravens' 31-26 win over the San Diego Chargers.

On his Twitter page, Foxworth wrote, "There was my doo doo game of the year. I'll never be that badly [sic] again dropped pic[k] missed the ball in coverage twice. But we won go bmore."

The end is what matters, both in Foxworth's Twitter posting and in the Ravens' defensive secondary performance.

The Ravens were gashed by big plays all game and surrendered 436 yards through the air. But just when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had the Ravens on the breaking point, Baltimore's secondary rallied.

Foxworth broke up two passes on one key Chargers fourth-quarter drive, the second of which resulted in an Antwan Barnes interception. Then cornerback Frank Walker, who came in to replace an injured Fabian Washington, swatted away a pass in the end zone on the Chargers' final drive to set the stage for Ray Lewis' game-saving tackle.

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The Ravens secondary allowed the Chargers to reach the red zone five times but showed just four field goals as blemishes.

"In our minds, if we keep them out of the end zone, we win the game," Ravens safety Ed Reed said. "That's what we did. When they got down there in the red zone, we kept them out."

With the Ravens handcuffing the Chargers' run game, San Diego opted to air it out to its big targets down the field.

Rivers, who notched a career-high in passing yards, connected on passes of 15 yards or more 12 times. He hit receivers for 35 yards or more five times, including an 81-yard touchdown pitch to running back Darren Sproles and a 35-yard touchdown strike to Vincent Jackson in the third quarter.

"This is the National Football League, and guys are going to make plays," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We don't want to give up one play. Those guys went up and got the ball. Great players make great plays, and we have to get better in that area."

To be fair, the Ravens' secondary had a tough assignment in the Chargers' receivers. Jackson is 6-5, Pro-Bowl tight end Antonio Gates is 6-4, No. 3 receiver Malcolm Floyd is 6-5 and even No. 4 man Legedu Naanee is 6-2. The shortest receiver is Chris Chambers at 5-11.

Meanwhile, the Ravens' top two cornerbacks, Foxworth and Washington, are both 5-11. The other two cornerbacks on the roster, Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb, are both 5-10. Even safeties Dawan Landry and Reed are 6-0 and 5-11, respectively.

"All you can do is play the ball," Reed said. "You have to get them on the ground when you're playing your defense. They get paid, and you expect them to make plays."

The Ravens continually got pressure on Rivers using blitzes and even without them, despite often facing a max-protection scheme. But Rivers, who had a backup center and guard blocking for him, was still able to make big completions.

Harbaugh said that the Ravens could have dropped more defenders back deep in coverage, but that the Chargers are so good at screen passes, draws and passes over the middle that the Ravens tried to "mix it up."

"You could use a little more three-deep in those situations, maybe, but that's just without looking at the tape," Harbaugh said.

The Chargers trailed by just two points when they took possession with four minutes, 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Rivers immediately went at Foxworth, but the Ravens cornerback made a fine play to break up a pass intended for Chambers.

Two plays later, on third-and-10, Rivers targeted Foxworth again. This time, Foxworth was able to reach around from behind Chambers and get a hand on the ball, popping it up for Barnes to intercept. The Ravens' offense turned the interception into a 33-yard field goal that put Baltimore up five points.

Still, Rivers had almost three minutes to score a touchdown and notch a second-straight fourth-quarter comeback for San Diego. And by that point, Washington was injured and the Ravens had to turn to Walker, who struggled at times during the preseason.

Rivers went to work, completing the first pass of the drive to Jackson for 38 yards, despite Foxworth being draped all over the receiver. Three plays later, on first-and-10 from the 23, with 56 seconds remaining, Rivers took a shot at the end zone, lofting a pass high for the 6-2 Naanee.

Walker leapt with the receiver and slapped the ball out of his hands right at the goal line. Two plays later, Lewis' backfield tackle ended the game.

"They had basically been throwing jump balls all night," Walker said. "Our coaches tell us all the time to high-point the ball and knock it down. If you can't make a play on the ball, you have to knock it down."

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