Thursday, October 10, 2013
Home sweet home for Ravens' defense
By Jamison Hensley
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Most would say the Baltimore Ravens are going to have their hands full when Aaron Rodgers and the NFL's third-highest scoring team come to town Sunday. Or, maybe it should be the other way around.
The Green Bay Packers are playing at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, which has been a nightmare for offenses this season, as well as the past decade.
Jimmy Smith and the Ravens are focused in on limiting the Packers' offense at M&T Bank Stadium in their Week 6 matchup Sunday.
The Ravens are the only team this season not to allow a touchdown at home, keeping the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans out of the end zone. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they are the first team to do so in their first two home games since the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles.
Some will brush off this statistic because the Ravens faced two struggling quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden and Matt Schaub. But the Ravens' defense has long been dominant at home, allowing an NFL-low 15.4 points in Baltimore since 2003. The Ravens have the NFL's most sacks (228) and interceptions (116) at home during that time, too.
Why has home field been so much of an advantage for the Ravens?
"Of all of the places I've ever been, there's never been a crowd like the Baltimore crowd that gets into the defense," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "It's always a big advantage here. It's harder on the offense, communication-wise with the noise. But it's also hard on us because of the noise communication-wise. This crowd takes a like a pride in it and we take a lot of pride in it and love playing at home."
The Ravens can become the fourth team since 1990 to not allow a touchdown in their first three home games and the first since the 2006 Denver Broncos. It will be a major challenge trying to extend the streak against the Packers, who have averaged 29.5 points and three touchdowns per game this season.
The Baltimore defense has to figure out a way to slow down Rodgers, who ranks fifth in passer rating (105.5) and seventh in completion rate (66.4 percent). Judging by what the Ravens are saying this week, the mindset is Rodgers is going to complete his throws. Their focus is stopping the yards after the catch.
“He’s human, but at the same time, he’s still a terrific quarterback," cornerback Jimmy Smith said of Rodgers. "He’s going to make his plays. Our job is to make sure if they do catch the ball, to tackle them and limit big plays as much as possible.”
Big plays will be a major factor in the game. The Ravens have given up seven passes over 40 yards, which is tied for the most in the NFL. Baltimore had done a better job of limiting big plays until last Sunday, when the Dolphins had three of them.
The biggest one came when quarterback Ryan Tannehill escaped the pocket and threw a 46-yard pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter. Coach John Harbaugh said there is a plan to put pressure on Rodgers and keep him in the pocket as much as possible.
"He’s great on the move," Harbaugh said. "He can move to run, but he really moves to throw. Those guys do a great job of uncovering downfield. They push off -- they do all the different tricks of the trade to get open downfield, and they do a good job with it.”
The Ravens are going to do everything possible to make Rodgers feel uncomfortable in Baltimore, continuing their trend of being rude hosts. Dating back to last season's wild-card win over the Colts, the Ravens have gone three straight home games without allowing a touchdown. The last time a visiting team reached the end zone at M&T Bank Stadium was Dec. 23, 2012, when Eli Manning threw a meaningless 13-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon in the fourth quarter.