OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens’ inconsistent offense is facing yet another formidable task Monday night.
One week removed from edging the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top-ranked defense in overtime, the Ravens are preparing for the Green Bay Packers’ aggressive scheme engineered by veteran defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
By virtue of the players buying into Capers’ tactics and cornerback Charles Woodson excelling enough to emerge as a legitimate NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the Packers have become the league’s top-ranked defense in terms of average yardage allowed.
Green Bay is surrendering 281.5 yards per game, and the Ravens’ 13th-ranked offense is generating 353.4 yards per contest.
“I think they take after Pittsburgh a little bit,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “They’ve got a bunch of athletic guys on their defense. They’ve got young guys on the outside, and they’ve played well the last handful of games.
“We’ve got to be ready to go in there and have those guys come out and play aggressive. It’s going to be a physical game, just like the last couple of weeks, and we’ve got to be ready for it.”
Being prepared means meeting the intensity of Green Bay and protecting the passer better than the offensive line and backs did during last week’s 20-17 overtime win over the Steelers where Flacco was sacked five times.
Heading into last week’s game, the Steelers were ranked first in total defense.
“No matter what defense you’re going up against, it’s a challenge,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “You really can’t get caught up in whether a team is ranked or unranked because there’s field position and how you decide to call a game based on how all the phases are playing. You better just come ready to give it your best.”
Of course, the Packers only rank 12th in scoring defense with a 19.5 scoring average against them.
The Packers’ defense has accomplished a lot considering the change in defensive alignment from their old 4-3 set as well as losing outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris to season-ending injuries.
“It seems like we play everybody that has the best defense week in and week out,” veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “Even with the injuries they have, that’s just a testament to how hard they’re working and the confidence they have in their defensive coordinator for one, Capers, and the guys that are on the field. They’re playing very good defense right now.”
Plus, the Packers lead the NFL in turnover ratio with a plus-17 margin.
They have intercepted 18 passes, led by Woodson’s seven, and recovered nine fumbles.
They rank second in the NFL with 27 takeaways behind the New Orleans Saints’ total of 32.
This is what Capers envisioned when he took over the Packers’ defense.
“They’ve really come on in the last three weeks or so,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I think probably he’s built toward what they’ve been able to do the last three weeks. It’s very creative, especially in the sub packages and they’ve got a lot of young guys flying around playing well, so they’ve done a great job.
“Charles Woodson is playing at as high a level as he’s ever played at in his career, and turnovers have been key for them. They’ve had a lot of turnovers. That’s probably the No. 1 factor in their success.”
TRAINING ROOM: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is listed as doubtful and didn’t practice for the third day in a row.
He’s expected to miss his third consecutive game due to a sprained left medial collateral ligament.
Tight end L.J. Smith (ankle) is doubtful.
Although free safety Ed Reed (ankle, hip) is listed as questionable, he returned to practice on a limited basis and is expected to start.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle) is probable, but was limited in practice Saturday.
Rookie safety K.J. Gerard (thigh) and cornerback Cary Williams (thigh) are also questionable.
Flacco (sprained ankle) is probable. He’s also dealing with a bruised hip and a sore shoulder.
The following players are also listed as probable: center Matt Birk (neck), linebackers Ray Lewis (foot), Jarret Johnson (left shoulder) and Prescott Burgess (hamstring), offensive tackle Jared Gaither (illness), wide receiver Kelley Washington (illness), fullback Le’Ron McClain (abdominal strain) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (illness).
The Packers ruled out linebacker Jeremy Thompson (neck sprain).
Rookie offensive tackle T.J. Lang (concussion) is questionable, but didn’t practice Saturday.
Woodson (shoulder), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (ribs), linebacker Brandon Chillar (hand), offensive tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and running back Ryan Grant (shoulder) are all listed as probable.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.