Pees does masterful job with Ravens' depleted defense
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Drawing on the knowledge he gained over 35 years as a football coach, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees showed his creativity and expertise this season in putting together a unit that sustained its hard-hitting reputation despite several key injuries and the suspension of Haloti Ngata.
The Ravens enter Saturday's playoff game at New England with six defensive backs on injured reserve. Baltimore has employed 12 different cornerbacks over the course of the season and also endured a month without Ngata after the five-time Pro Bowl tackle was disciplined by the league for using Adderall.
And still, the Ravens upheld their tradition of defensive excellence.
Only five teams allowed fewer points, no running back ran for 100 yards and Baltimore yielded no more than one touchdown in nine of its 16 regular-season games. Most importantly, the Ravens (11-6) played well enough to earn a trip to the postseason for the sixth time in seven years.
''We've been through so many different players, and Dean has done a really tremendous job of tailoring the scheme toward what guys can do well,'' coach John Harbaugh said.
''We don't really look like the same defense every week in a lot of different ways. It's not like we revamp everything we do, but he's always going to give an opponent something different that they're maybe not expecting to help guys play certain situations.''
Pees often stays up late at night drawing up X's and O's in an effort to find the best way to utilize those at his disposal. It's not unlike his effort two years ago, when he worked through injuries to linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs to help Baltimore win the Super Bowl.
''Some years are just like that,'' Pees said. ''We've got to stay here as long as we've got to stay here to get the job done.''
More injuries to the secondary followed, leaving Pees no choice but to shuffle his coverage and use more blitzes to keep the pressure on the quarterback.
Somehow, everything fell onto place.
''Dean has done an excellent job this year with rotating the safeties and the secondary, the next-man-up thing,'' Webb said. ''He's done a great job of adjusting to the strength of his players. That's one thing he's always been good at. He's a nice, aggressive defensive coordinator. I love playing for him.''
Pees, 65, broke into coaching in 1979 as defensive coordinator of the University of Findlay (Ohio). He then served as an assistant for five different colleges, including Notre Dame and Michigan State, before taking over as head coach at Kent State in 1998.
That job lasted for five years before he was hired as New England's linebackers coach, a post Pees held for two years before becoming the Patriots' defensive coordinator from 2006-09.
Pees then came to Baltimore, working as linebackers coach for two years before replacing defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who got the top job in Indianapolis.
Pees' style can be described as teaching with a purpose.
''If you don't understand something or don't feel like you can get it down pat, all you have to do is just let him know,'' Ravens safety Will Hill said. ''He's always up new challenges, and always has new schemes. He knows his players and what situations to put people in.''
Pees will have a heck of a challenge on Saturday against the Patriots (12-4). He doesn't expect his familiarity with New England coach Bill Belichick to factor into the game plan.
''At this point in time, I don't think I know him as well as everybody thinks I know him,'' Pees said. ''I've been gone five years. It's been so far removed, it's different.''
Although Pees is sure to have some new wrinkles in his defense, the Patriots have a good idea what to expect.
''It's a great team defense,'' New England quarterback Tom Brady said. ''They've always had a great defense. They're always one of the toughest defenses we play all year.''
Pees is the sixth defensive coordinator in Ravens history. Four of the previous five went on to become NFL head coaches, but Pees isn't expecting to change jobs anytime soon.
''It's got to be something that you want to do; it's not the prestige of wanting to be a head coach,'' he said. ''I've never been fired, and I never left a job that I didn't like. I've always just thought the other opportunity was better, or it was, `I'd like to try that.'
''I'd never say never, but I am so happy here. I love Baltimore, my family loves Baltimore, I love this defense and I love working for John Harbaugh.''
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