The Ravens have had some of the best defenses of the past 10 years. We know that. But just how good have they been? Our friends at numberFire will tell us.
According to their metrics, the Ravens place both #1 and #2 when ranked among all of the defenses of the past decade. Yes, that includes the 2013 Seahawks AND the 2015 Broncos. They had two defenses better than both of them. Both played during the Rex Ryan era.
Here is what Barry Cohen of numberFire had to say about the 2nd best defense, the 2008 Ravens:
The 2008 Ravens were the second best defense of the last decade in terms of both Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP and Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP. They also allowed the third-fewest points per game (15.3), the second fewest yards per play (4.5), and the overall fewest first downs per game (14.3).
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “What in the heck is NEP?” It’s a metric numberFire created to determine to what level a team performs above – or below – expectations. For defense, the lower the number (i.e. the more negative), the better the defense.
Cohen takes a look at why the 2008 unit ranked so high in Adjusted Defensive NEP:
As was the case for 11 seasons during the early part of the 2000s, Ed Reed was the last line of defense for Baltimore. He tied his career high with nine interceptions to lead the league and set a new career best with two touchdowns. The defense as a whole forced at least one turnover in all but one game, and had five games with three or more takeaways.
Baltimore held their opponents to 13 or less points in 10 regular season games and twice in their three playoff games.
Yep, that unit was pretty damn good. There was only one unit that was better in the last 10 years.
That would be the 2006 unit.
The 2006 Ravens were a nightmare for opposing offenses. In addition to destroying other defenses according to our numberFire metrics, they also ranked at or near the top in most traditional statistics.
Category Value 2006-2015 NFL Rank Points Allowed/g 12.6 1st Yards Allowed/g 264.12 4th 1st Downs Allowed/g 14.8 2nd Takeaways 40 T-5th Sacks 60 2nd
Now, THAT is dominant. What allowed them to put up such gaudy numbers?
To get to 60 sacks, it takes more than just one dominant player getting after the quarterback. This team had four players — two defensive ends and two outside linebackers – ranked inside the top 20 in the league in sacks.
Player Sacks 2006 NFL Rank Trevor Pryce 13 T-5th Adalius Thomas 11 T-11th Bart Scott 9.5 T-19th Terrell Suggs 9.5 T-19th
They also had three defensive backs ranked inside the top 10 in the league in interceptions.
Player Interceptions 2006 NFL Rank Chris McAlister 6 T-7th Dawan Landry 5 T-10th Ed Reed 5 T-10th
That’s seven players playing among the top level at their respective positions, and we haven’t even mentioned the leader in the middle of the defense yet. In just 14 games, Ray Lewis amassed 103 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble.
This star studded lineup allowed opposing offenses to score more than 20 points only three times all season and held every opponent under 26 points, including two shutouts.
Recent Ravens defense haven’t been as dominant as units of the past. If we had the offenses that we’ve had since Joe Flacco‘s rookie season during those times of defensive dominance, there would surely be another Lombardi in the Ravens’ facility.
Those defenses of the Rex Ryan era are a helpful reminder of just how good we’ve had it as Ravens fans. Maybe we’ll learn to appreciate just how good those teams were after a down year like 2015.