What Has To Change For Ravens Defense To Finish?


The Ravens are used to having the kind defense that always seemed to hold a lead, particularly late in the second half.

But that simply hasn't been the case this year.

The last two weeks, the defense has allowed the Raiders and the Bengals to march down the field for game-winning drives late in the fourth quarter. The Bengals scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns that wiped away two Baltimore leads.

What needs to happen on defense for that to change?

"Make plays," outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw answered. "I can sit here and think of big words and tell you what all the leaders said when they broke it down with the wise words this week. But at the end of the day, we have to win games. They brought us in here to win games and we just have to do that."

The Ravens could resort to the blame game to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with the unit in late-game situations, but nobody has gone that route. 

"It's everything. You take responsibility across the board," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's execution, it's finding a better way to play."

Nobody had one specific answer for what the Ravens need to change. The pass rush and coverage in the secondary have both experienced breakdowns the last two weeks. The Ravens have committed too many penalties, from defensive holding, to pass interference to personal fouls. The group has allowed far too many big plays.

But there hasn't been a single glaring issue throughout the first three games.

"At the end of the day, it's collectively, as a group, we've got more pride than that on defense," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "We just didn't get the job done, so we have to. Myself included, and the other guys, we have to step up."

The Ravens will certainly make tweaks in scheme choices and could also potentially shuffle the lineup, but several players said a shift in mentality is needed to thrive in late-game situations with a close score.

"As a secondary and a defense, we need to know how to put the fire out, how to stop people when the game's on the line, especially here at home," safety Kendrick Lewis said. "We know that, and we need to get better."

"Once we had the lead in the fourth quarter –twice – we're supposed to keep it," cornerback Lardarius Webb added. "With this defense, we're supposed to get off the field. We haven't been getting off the field this whole year, and that's what you get when you don't get off the field on third down."

The Ravens tried adjusting the lineup on Sunday, playing cornerback Rashaan Melvin ahead of Kyle Arrington. After Melvin struggled on the opening series – he was flagged for two penalties and gave up a big completion – the Ravens went back to Arrington.

More tweaks could come in the future as recently acquired players like pass rusher Jason Babin and cornerback Will Davis still have to make their Baltimore debuts. The Ravens have also shown in the past they aren't hesitant to make midseason moves like trades or signing free agents.

"We know we have the right pieces," Webb said. "But I know they're going to look around, and they're going to try to change up some things, find the perfect match. But I know we have the pieces – we just have to put everything together."

Regardless of whether the Ravens shuffle the rotation or bring in new personnel, the players and coaches pointed to a mentality shift that has to occur. The defense has lost some key players and leaders since last year ended – Terrell Suggs is done for the year with a torn Achilles and Haloti Ngata is in Detroit – and they need the upcoming leaders to embrace the kind of shutdown defense that can win games in the final minutes.

"You have the lead in the fourth quarter, you have to play the kind of defense that gets them stopped," Harbaugh said. "You have to come out and stop them if you want to win."

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