Remade Ravens defense shines heading into bye week
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Before Sunday's game against Tennessee, injured and ineffective were the two words that best described the Baltimore secondary.
With standout cornerback Jimmy Smith lost for the season after undergoing surgery on his left foot, the Ravens yielded 340 yards passing and six touchdowns in a lopsided loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 2.
Clearly, something had to be done if Baltimore was to remain in the playoff hunt.
The Ravens cut two defensive backs, shifted safety Anthony Levine to cornerback, signed Danny Gorrer and promoted Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad.
The changes produced the desired result: The Ravens limited Titans rookie Zach Mettenberger to 179 yards passing, and Gorrer picked off a pass in a 21-7 victory that brought Baltimore (6-4) into its bye week.
When they return next Monday, the Ravens will continue working to improve a defense that bounced back nicely following a 27-24 loss to Cincinnati and the 43-23 debacle at Pittsburgh.
''I think we just all kind of motivated each other,'' linebacker Terrell Suggs said Monday. ''We were coming off of a rough two weeks (and) we really wanted to get the crowd going and give our fans something to be excited about again. If you go on a two-game skid, everybody is down and it's the end of the world. But we knew it wasn't.''
The Titans started strong, getting a first-period touchdown, but totaled only 45 yards after halftime. Gorrer clinched it with an interception in the closing minutes.
It wasn't perfection, but it was a good start for a unit that was in dire need of an overhaul.
''We played really well in the secondary. Coaches did a great job, players did a great job,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''We have a ways to go, though, in every area, but I thought the challenge that they faced this week, they did a great job of answering the bell.''
Acquired on a waiver claim after being cut by Detroit, Gorrer fit right into the Baltimore secondary. Likely that's because he played with the Ravens in 2011 and was on their practice squad in 2010 and 2012.
''I'm always glad to be back in Baltimore. It's definitely been a crazy week,'' Gorrer said. ''With Jimmy (Smith) going down, it was time for me to step in and for the secondary to come together.''
Four days before the game, cornerback Lardarius Webb - who missed three of the first four games with a back injury - called a meeting of the defensive backs. He told them that the kind of performance they had against Pittsburgh was unacceptable, and stressed improvement was an absolute necessity.
''It really wasn't animated. It was just like talking to the boys, friend to friend,'' Webb explained. ''I was just letting them know that we just have to start it now. Everybody has tough games. We just have to live and learn, watch film, and remember that's not us. We're way better than that.''
Against Tennessee, almost everyone contributed. Rookie safety Terrence Brooks flattened tight end Delanie Walker with a clean, efficient tackle; Levine had four tackles and knocked away two passes; and Webb had five tackles, second on the team behind Suggs.
And now, a bit later than usual, the Ravens can enjoy some well-deserved, in-season time off.
''For our team, it's really a good time to have it,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's obviously later; most teams have had their bye. We should come back fresh and strong and ready to go.''
When they resume play on Nov. 24 in New Orleans, the Ravens will likely be in the thick of a tight division race. At this point, a half-game separates the AFC North-leading Cleveland Browns and cellar-dwelling Baltimore.
''I feel the same way I felt about it when the season opened - it's the best division in football,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's going to be a dogfight right to the end. We just need to do our part. We understand how good the other three teams are in our division and how well they're going to play down the stretch. That should just serve further notice to us in terms of how well we need to play.''
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