Dominant. Fast. Consistent.
Those are just a few words to describe a Baltimore Ravens defense that allowed just six points to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
After an embarrassing 49-point debacle in Denver to open the season, the defense showed its potential against their division rivals.
Outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs have quickly established themselves as one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL. To go along with the fast-paced pursuit of the quarterback, Baltimore’s run defense was stout again against Cleveland.
Here are a few key defensive plays that decided the game.
Q2, 7:48 remaining, 1st and 10
The Suggs/Dumervil duo was on full display against Cleveland, but with the Browns driving and in Ravens territory in the second quarter, it was Suggs who made an impact without Dumervil’s help.
The defense is lined up in a 4-3 look, with Suggs on the outside shoulder of Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, and Courtney Upshaw in a SAM role on the strong side.
Suggs beats the talented Thomas off the line, and is able to get around him, just enough to force Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden back up the pocket and right in the face of an oncoming interior rush.
When Weeden moves up in the pocket he is met by Marcus Spears and Arthur Jones, with Suggs coming full speed from behind.
Three defenders versus one offensive lineman and a non-run threat quarterback. Advantage? Baltimore.
Suggs is actually the one who comes up with the sack on the play, as he tracks down Weeden and trips him up for a loss.
The sack was key not only because Baltimore’s pass rush was perfectly executed, but because it came on first down, stalling Cleveland’s new set of downs, eventually leading to a punt.
Q4, 13:05 remaining, 3rd and 10
Baltimore’s pass rush was dominant on Sunday, so let’s stick with the theme.
Facing a 3rd and long while trailing in the third quarter, the Browns faced an onslaught from the Baltimore six-man front.
In Baltimore’s nickel package, the defense operated with just two down linemen on this play.
What happens next is a thing of beauty, and as good of an inside cross blitz as you’ll ever see the Ravens execute.
Bynes and Smith cross each other up the middle, and instead of both rushing the quarterback, Bynes chips center Alex Mack, freeing up space for Smith between the center and right guard.
The gap that Smith is given allows him to have a free shot at the quarterback, and despite an open receiver downfield, Smith’s closing speed on Weeden results in a third-down sack, ending Cleveland’s drive.
Between Smith, Bynes and rookie Arthur Brown, expect plenty of these types of inside blitzes by the Ravens this season.
Bynes’ closing speed isn’t fast enough for him to be the focus of the blitz, but if he can shield the center or guard successfully, Smith will have free shots at the quarterback on most occasions.
Against teams with immobile quarterbacks, these types of blitzes by Baltimore may become a theme.
Q3, 3:01 remaining, 2nd and 7
Okay, the defensive breakdown can’t be completely positive, as the Ravens defense had a few broken plays, one of which could have changed the entire game.
Late in the third quarter, with the Browns trailing 7-6, the Ravens had a monumental lapse in coverage.
The play starts off with the Browns in a two-back set, and just before the snap, running back Chris Ogbonnaya moves out of the backfield. Keep an eye on him and Ravens inside linebacker Josh Bynes, both circled.
Ogbonnaya runs down the left sideline on a wheel route, and with the Browns receivers covered by the Ravens cornerbacks, the only man to catch Ogbonnaya is Bynes.
Bynes doesn’t come close to reacting in time and Ogbonnaya breaks deep with not a single defender in sight.
Luckily for Bynes and the rest of the defense, the Browns managed to botch the would-be touchdown, saving Baltimore from immense criticism regarding their coverage, or lack thereof.
While Bynes was the closest defender to the target, it looked as if Ogbonnaya wasn’t his man to start the play. But when Ogbonnaya went out wide, Bynes was the only one there to react, and the proper defensive adjustment has to be made.