Reasons For Ravens Pass Rush Slowdown

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On Nov. 10 at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens roughed up Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

They hit him eight times. They sacked him five times. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil alone notched three sacks.

The Ravens' Week 17 rematch against Cincinnati shows just how much the pass rush changed by the end of the year.

Baltimore never hit Dalton.

The Ravens began the year on a torrid sack streak. They led the AFC in sacks and were on pace to break the franchise record of 60 (2006). Dumervil and Terrell Suggs were threatening to break the record of most sacks between a duo of 24, set by Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas that same year.

By year's end, the Ravens finished tied for 16th in the league with 40 sacks. Suggs and Dumervil had just one sack each over the final seven weeks of the season.

The Ravens had 37 sacks through their first 11 games. They finished with three in their final five.

"To start off with all those sacks, then to slow down at the end of the season, was something that was disappointing for us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said during Tuesday's season-ending press conference.

Harbaugh gave a two-fold explanation for the sack drop-off.

First, the ankle injury Dumervil suffered in Week 13 against Pittsburgh slowed him for the rest of the year. Dumervil missed one game (Minnesota) and was limited from then on.

"That was something that he fought through, but that was a little bit tough for him," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh did not offer an explanation for Suggs' pass-rush absence. After notching nine sacks in his first eight games, he had just one (against New England's Tom Brady) in the final eight.

The other reason, Harbaugh said, was that opponents adjusted to the Ravens' hot start and began getting the ball out quicker to avoid taking sacks. That made Baltimore start playing more coverage. The Ravens relied more on their secondary.

Harbaugh pointed to the final game in Cincinnati as an example of how the game plan changed.

"In the Cincinnati game, we played more coverage – which [Defensive Coordinator] Dean [Pees] knows I'm not a big fan of," Harbaugh said. "I like blitzing. To me, we're a blitzing team, we're a pressure team.

"Yet, we get four interceptions, because [Dalton's] getting the ball out fast, and our guys are playing coverage, and we're doubling certain guys, and we're changing up our coverage patterns back there. I thought our guys did a good job with that."

Still, Harbaugh said the Ravens need to find a way to maintain their strong pass rush no matter what opponents are doing to counteract it.

"We've got to make sure we can do that throughout the course of the season and keep hitting quarterbacks, because if you do that, you're going to be successful," he said.

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