Defense stingy in red zone despite growing pains

Defense stingy in red zone despite growing pains
October 24, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Ravens confident they can improve season after bye

Over the last six games, the Ravens’ defense has surrendered just one touchdown in the second half. 

That is one reason to be optimistic about the Ravens’ chances to turn around their season after the bye. The defensive players and coaches have done a nice job organizing a defensive unit that has seven new starters. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees admitted he has reduced the number of play calls this year, with many players new to the Ravens’ system, and veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed no longer around to help communicate calls.

“If you guys saw the volume of calls that we have, you’d say we’re crazy,” Pees said. “We’ve got to pick and choose each week what we’re going to do. Before, maybe with more experienced guys who had been in the system, you could actually pull something kind of out of the archives that maybe you hadn’t even practiced all week and just tell them on the bench. They kind of knew, because they had done it 100 times before in other games. We can’t do that right now.”

Despite being 3-4, the Ravens have been excellent defensively in the red zone. They have made effective halftime adjustments. The pass rush led by Terrell Suggs has been formidable.

Their main issues, however, have been stopping the run and forcing turnovers. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (19 carries, 93 yards) became the latest running back to hurt the Ravens on Sunday. Pees took responsibility for that, saying the Ravens were caught off guard when the Steelers ran more plays out of a jumbo formation, using an extra offensive lineman at tight end.

 “They decided to go big people against us and tried to run it in there against just our regular defense,” Pees said. “We had not seen that on film. We need to adjust to that, and part of that is maybe a different personnel group. I can’t really do that with these guys because they’re not ready for that. Maybe in years past, I might have just said, 'OK, let’s put this group in,' and we could have gone ahead and played a whole package out of it. This last week, we couldn’t do that.”

However, the Ravens are playing well enough defensively to be better than 3-4. If the defense improves in November and December, as Pees hopes, perhaps the Ravens’ record will improve as well.