Ravens’ blitz befuddles Redskins

Street Talk Ravens’ blitz befuddles Redskins

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OWINGS MILLS — Mass confusion reigned at the line of scrimmage Sunday night as the Baltimore Ravens’ ultra-aggressive defense swarmed the Washington Redskins with intricate zone blitzes and overloads that left Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell writhing on the ground in pain.

It got so overwhelming for the Redskins during the Ravens’ 24-10 victory that coach Jim Zorn called it a circus rush. Although there were no trapeze artists, clown cars or dancing elephants to contend with, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s elaborate pass rush schemes created a dizzying effect that was zero fun for the Redskins to contend with.

"Circuses, I’m sure, are very well-organized and very detailed and very precise," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said with a smile. "That’s what Rex’s defense is, hard to decipher, no question about it. And that’s the beauty of it."

The Ravens only sacked Campbell twice, but generated six tackles for losses and had seven quarterback hits.

Once Washington Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels suffered a season-ending torn triceps injury, offensive guard Justin Geisinger had to shift over to try to slow down dangerous outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

It was such a glaring mismatch that Suggs felt it necessary to warn Zorn that he was taking a bad risk prior to decking Campbell for a 13-yard loss. Suggs finished the game with a sack, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and two pass deflections.

"I actually pointed at Jim Zorn and said, ‘You can’t do this, you’re going to get your quarterback hurt,’" Suggs said. "I was like, ‘I don’t think this guy is supposed to be here. You’ve got a mistake.’"

It was Suggs who dashed past Samuels on the third play of the game to get a piece of the football that free safety Ed Reed intercepted to set up the Ravens’ first touchdown.

Plus, Suggs had extra motivation after being booed by Redskins fans at a Wizards basketball game.

"That was personal for me," said Suggs, who leads Baltimore with 6 1/2 sacks ahead of linebacker Jarret Johnson’s five and defensive end Trevor Pryce’s four and 1/2. "I said I was going to make them pay on Dec. 7."

With middle linebacker Ray Lewis used more often than usual in blitz packages as he racked up a game-high 13 tackles with one sack, three tackles for losses and two quarterback hits, the Ravens also liberally sent defensive backs Jim Leonhard, Corey Ivy and 6-foot-3, 215-pound Darren Stone after the quarterback.

"You can’t just diagram it up and say, ‘We’re going to account for the four down linemen and the Mike [middle linebacker] in this protection and the two backs have these two outside linebackers,’" Harbaugh said. "Who is the Mike? Who are the two outside linebackers? Who are the four down linemen?

"Rex makes it really difficult to define for the pass-protection scheme and basically makes them rule it up in just a more base manner. That’s part of Rex’s brilliance, the way he schemes it up."

At 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Leonhard is an undersized dynamo who bursts into the backfield at will. The strong safety nearly shared a sack with Lewis when he penetrated off the edge in the second quarter.

"Jim is a really good athlete," Harbaugh said. "He can run, he can jump. He’s athletic. He gets there quickly, but I think all of our guys do that well."

Ivy pressured Campbell into an incompletion in the fourth quarter. At one point, even big defensive tackle Haloti Ngata lined up at middle linebacker and charged the pocket.

"Our biggest problem in the first half was our communication on how to slide," Zorn said. "Who’s staying put or who is jumping?"

The majority of the time, the Redskins guessed wrong as the Ravens remained a step ahead all night long.

The combination of placing Suggs next to a rushing safety created even more disarray for the Redskins’ blockers.

"We’re a defense that feeds off each other," Suggs said. "Let’s just see if we can keep chugging away."

NOTES: The Ravens signed running back Jalen Parmale off the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad, according to his agent, as Baltimore added a 5-foot-11, 220-pound former Toledo standout that Baltimore scouted prior to the draft. Defensive tackle Lamar Divens (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve, creating a roster spot for Parmale.

Parmale was picked in the sixth round by Miami after rushing for 1,511 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Regarded as a tough all-around back with good hands and kick return capabilities, Parmale chose the Ravens over two other NFL teams’ offers to join their active roster over the past day.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran. 

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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