Going back to the early portions of last year’s throwaway season, the defense cracked more times than they withstood. Remember the near collapses against Arizona and New York? If Justin McCareins could catch, the Jets would have tied the ball game in the waning moments of the fourth quarter
That drive was led by the great Kellen Clemens. Yesterday, against Tennessee, a grizzled Kerry Collins drove the stake through the Ravens’ hearts. Kerry Collins.
It is one thing to give up a drive to Tom Brady, which the Ravens did a year ago in another failed attempt at stopping a team when the game was on the line. But to give up an 80-yard, go-ahead drive, to a 35-year old quarterback who was dazed and confused for much of the day is beyond belief.
Collins does deserve his due. He got rid of the ball quickly once his back foot hit off of the third step. He delivered the ball accurately and found the open receivers to pierce the Ravens’ flailing coverage windows. For one drive, he was Joe Montana.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, they have made too many average Joes look like “the” Joe of comebacks.
For all of the boasting and bravado that this defense exhibits on a weekly basis, they simply do not step up and make the key plays when it matters most. One can go back to the Browns game from a year ago, the Patriots game a year ago, and this season, the past two contests against Pittsburgh and Tennessee to find the same pattern of failures.
Perhaps it has been defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s lack of adjustments to an opponent’s use of the spread and the two-minute drill. Against Collins and the Titans, the defense was burned badly over the middle on slants and off the edges, on drags and quick outs. The quick hitters were even more devastating because once the backers blitzed, there was vacant space for the ball carriers to move through.
Or maybe the culprit has been the players’ inability to execute. In these situations, the pass-rush was either picked up in enough time or was non-existent. Either way, something has to change for the defense to get off the field.
There is no question that this defense is ferocious and can, in any game, take over. It has done so for the better portion of the first four games of the season. It has stuffed the run at almost the level that the 2000 team stuffed the run. The pass-rush has been there as well, and despite the injuries, coverage on the back end has been much tighter than it was a year ago.