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Ravens Thinking Sacks


Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles tagged Ben Roethlisberger for eight sacks. After knocking the sturdy quarterback out of the game with a hand and shoulder injury, Philly notched another one on backup Byron Leftwich.

As the Ravens prepare for their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field Monday night, sacks are definitely on everyone's mind.

Pressure on the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger left him with a game he'd probably want back. The former 11th-overall draft pick completed 13 of 25 passes for 131 yards, tossed one interception, lost two fumbles and to add insult to injury, was even penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety.

On one six-play drive alone, Roethlisberger was sacked three times.

It all culminated in an ugly 15-6 Steelers loss, dropping Baltimore's AFC North rival to 2-1.

To many Ravens, the Eagles' outburst was an interesting combination, a mix of Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's attacking scheme and a poor showing by the Steelers' typically-solid offensive line.

Featuring such stellar pass-rushers as linebackers Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott and Antwan Barnes and defensive end Trevor Pryce, Baltimore would have every reason to forecast a repeat of its nine-sack performance against the Steelers in 2006.

That isn't the case.

"Very seldom are teams going to make the same mistake twice," said Suggs. "I know they had to – on the plane ride home when they were watching it – say, 'This is what we can't do anymore; we definitely can't do that any more throughout this year.' You've got to protect your quarterback.

"It was a good game to watch, but I don't think there is anything we can take from it because they've seen it once now and now they're on to it. Boom, they're fixing it."

While it may tempt some teams to emulate what the Eagles' defense did to attack Roethlisberger, the Ravens are planning on remaining true to their identity.

There are similarities between the two defenses, which both include bringing rushers from multiple formations and positions, but Baltimore also prides itself on its ability to win at the line of scrimmage and stop the run.

"I just think last week Philly had a great game plan against them, and if you see the scheme that they drew up, they had a lot of open runners coming free," explained linebacker Ray Lewis. "Of course, they're going to go back and correct whatever there is to correct.

"So, if you try to go and emulate the same thing, then you can get beat doing the same thing."

Added Suggs: "I think that we're a unique defense within ourselves. We don't necessarily need pressure. We can line up and just play smash-mouth football."

The Ravens have had success in the past against Roethlisberger and his offensive line.

On Nov. 26, 2006, Baltimore took "Big Ben" down nine times in a 27-0 Ravens shutout. One of those sacks, from Bart Scott, was regarded by many as the hit of the year, when Scott de-cleated Roethlisberger after rushing untouched off the left edge.

Last year, the Ravens sacked Roethlisberger three times for 22 yards in their first meeting. Roethlisberger was inactive in the season finale.

Baltimore is expecting the Steelers to protect their top signal-caller with a mixture of maximum protection, with additional usage of tight ends and running backs for blocking, and quick throws designed to get the ball out quickly.

"He's not going to get hit like that again," said Pryce, who notched his first sack of the season last week against the Cleveland Browns. "Whatever they were going through, they'll fix it. I think Philly kind of caught them off-guard. He won't catch anybody off-guard."

Roethlisberger's sheer size makes him a difficult target to sack. He matches up well with the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Pryce or the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Suggs.

And, nimble feet allow Roethlisberger to regularly elude oncoming tacklers.

"It's hard to get him down," Pryce stated. "He only goes down when it's the last viable option. If there's nothing else available, he'll let you lay him on the ground. But, you're not going to tackle him. He's too big and strong."

Still, Roethlisberger has been sacked 12 times after only three games. He's taken 160 sacks over five seasons, an average of 32 per year.

Such numbers reveal that Baltimore is able to get after the Steelers passer, but the Ravens are going to have to do it their own way, despite past results.

"We just need to go in with our game plan and stick to it, and I think everything else will just take care of itself," Lewis said.

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