Defense comes up big again in win over Chargers

Defense comes up big again in win over Chargers
November 25, 2012, 9:30 pm

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) reacts after a play during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Ravens won 16-13 in overtime.

(Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE)

On a day when the offense struggled again for long stretches, the defense came through and played a big role in the Ravens’ 16-13 overtime victory over San Diego Sunday.

Quarterback Philip Rivers picked the Ravens apart in last year’s meeting, and while he moved the Chargers well through the air at times, it wasn’t nearly the same thing. San Diego gained just 121 yards after taking a 10-0 halftime lead.

The defense stiffened and allowed only three points after that and forced punts on five of San Diego’s six possessions in the final two quarters and into the overtime. They did a good job of getting pressure on Rivers, sacking him six times. Arthur Jones got Rivers twice. The Ravens couldn’t sack him at all last year.

In addition, the defense made a number of big stops on third down. San Diego converted only three of 15 third-down plays. That was a big reason the Ravens were able to come back and then win in overtime.

The Ravens lost Dannell Ellerbe to a first-half injury, but Brendon Ayanbadejo made some good open-field tackles in the fourth quarter and overtime, and the secondary broke up several Rivers’ passes that could have kept the Chargers moving.

One of the biggest parts of the comeback came in the fourth quarter when the defense forced a three-and-out after Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta that cut the lead to 13-10. On third-and-seven, Ayanbadejo made a nice open-field tackle that forced the Chargers to punt. The Ravens then got the ball back, and Flacco led the game-tying drive.

The defense still isn’t quite what its been in years past, but now it seems like they’re much more effective. Players appear to be growing more comfortable in their roles, and the team’s won three straight road games to give the Ravens a three-game lead with five games left.

And with a defense that appears to be getting stronger, that’s not a bad position to be in.