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Thursday, September 26, 2013
Surprising players key Ravens' turnaround

By Jamison Hensley

In the Baltimore Ravens' season-opening loss at Denver, they allowed 445 yards passing and seven touchdown passes. Over the past two weeks, they've given up a total of 364 yards passing and no touchdown passes.

This turnaround has occurred because of two starters who ended up on the team in unusual circumstances.

Inside linebacker Daryl Smith didn't sign with the Ravens until June 5, after Rolando McClain was arrested again and abruptly retired. He has seamlessly replaced Ray Lewis, leading the Ravens in tackles (25) and returning the team's first interception of the season 37 yards for a touchdown last Sunday.

Safety James Ihedigbo joined the Ravens last September because the team needed depth at safety due to injuries to Sean Considine and Emmanuel Cook. Many assumed Ihedigbo would hold the starting spot this season until rookie first-round pick Matt Elam was ready. But Ihedigbo has been the team's best safety, recording nine tackles (including two behind the line of scrimmage) and two passes defended Sunday.

Known for their expertise in drafting, the Ravens upgraded their defense by finding the right veterans to fill key spots.

"We do a good job in that department of finding guys that fit us personality-wise," coach John Harbaugh said. "A lot of times, guys come here and they’re better than they were with other teams. And, that’s what you try to do.”

To put the Ravens' turnaround in perspective, here's where their defense ranks over the past two weeks:

Points: 7.5 (2nd)

Total yards: 261.5 (4th)

Rushing yards: 79.5 (t-5th)

Passing yards: 182.0 (5th)

QBR: 21.8 (4th)