OWINGS MILLS – Immediately after the Baltimore Ravens’ 30-7 victory over the Denver Broncos, a consistent theme was sounded in the locker room.
Several players, including middle linebacker Ray Lewis, emphasized that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who had drawn criticism during the Ravens’ three-game losing streak, deserved a lot of credit for the dramatic turnaround.
The Ravens held Denver to a season-low 200 yards of total offense, the Broncos’ lowest total in six years.
“I think for all the heat that coach Mattison has been getting, he put together a pretty good package,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. I think coach Mattison did a good job of putting all of us in the right places and playing a good chess match.”
From the first defensive snap, the Ravens signaled that they were operating under an aggressive approach as outside linebacker Jarret Johnson crashed into quarterback Kyle Orton for a blindside sack.
The Ravens’ relatively vanilla schemes compared to the “organized chaos” that defined former defensive boss Rex Ryan’s unpredictable game plans suddenly had some flavor.
Johnson said that the Ravens used multiple alignments and blitzed more often than they had in the recent past.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh emphasized Monday that there weren’t any new elements to the defensive alignment. Primarily, the execution was what differed from the previous three games.
“If we can find a way in certain situations to put together a better scheme to create an advantage for our guys, we wanted to do that,” Harbaugh said. “Now, there were no new calls. There were no new inventions. It was all part of the Ravens’ package that Greg and his staff put together.
“I thought they did a really good job of putting together a plan for Denver, understanding what Denver’s trying to accomplish and going after it. The guys executed it well, too. So, was it a better plan? Maybe. Was it executed better? Sure. All those things go together and you get a better performance.”
The Ravens kept Orton under constant siege and nearly intercepted him twice, but Johnson and Suggs both dropped gifts that hit them in the hands.
Johnson’s big hit definitely sent a message that the Ravens weren’t going to be pushed around.
“It’s always good to hit the quarterback, so it can’t be overblown,” Harbaugh said. “It’s good to hit the quarterback on the first play when they drop back to pass. It’s going to be something that’s going to set a tone for the rest of the game.
“The way things are set up right now and how difficult it is to cover in the back end, you have got to get to the quarterback. If you don’t get to the quarterback, it’s going to be impossible to defend against the pass the way it’s being called and the way it’s set up. That’s going to be critical for us to sustain pass defense for the rest of the year.”
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata’s sprained right ankle isn’t believed to be serious after X-rays were ruled negative Sunday.
Keeping in line with his stance on not detailing players’ injuries, Harbaugh declined to give an update on Ngata.
“As with all injuries, we’ll have an injury report on Wednesday,” Harbaugh said. “So, we’ll see.”
Ngata was able to walk after the game after having his ankle re-taped twice, but didn’t return to play after leaving the game with 10 minutes left in the third quarter against the Broncos.
Ngata’s durability is impressive with a current streak of 55 consecutive starts since being drafted in the first round three years ago.
TEMPER FLARES: Wide receiver Derrick Mason said he apologized to an official following his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing his helmet after an obvious defensive pass interference penalty wasn’t enforced.
Mason suggested that he might get calls in the future because of his outburst.
“After a while you get pissed off and you feel that you have to no longer be the nice guy out there,” he said. “I think I’ve smiled a little bit too much out on the field. Sometimes, they take your kindness for weakness and they’re never going to give you a penalty.
“I even apologized to the referee for showing him up. I didn’t do it deliberately, and he understood. Hopefully, it won’t happen again. I think I got a make-up call later in the game. Sometimes, squeaky wheels get the oil. Maybe I need to be the squeaky wheel more often.”
Harbaugh said that he’s not overly concerned about Mason’s ability to control his behavior after holding a sideline conversation with him after the incident.
“Emotions run high,” he said. “Derrick was making his point and unfortunately threw the helmet and the official called it. So, that hurt us and I think he understands we don’t want a 15-yard penalty.
“All we really talked about was, ‘OK, I understand where you’re at. Let me handle this, OK? It’s my job to handle this, not yours, you play.’ Derrick got control real quick, like he always does.”
SCRATCHED: Harbaugh addressed cornerback Frank Walker being a healthy scratch as he was deactivated for the first time this season after struggling in single coverage during the fourth quarter of a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“He’s a big part of our team,” he said. “Frank knows how we feel about him. You try to put the 45 guys up in any given week that you feel like give you the best chance to win and do the most for you.
“In this game, based on the packages, we thought we were going to see, that’s what we chose to do. Frank Walker is another competitive guy. He’s a really good player, and he’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing. He knows that.”
QUICK HITS: The Ravens’ tackling in the open field was much crisper against the Broncos, especially from the defensive backs. “I think our tackling has been good, actually,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t do a lot of live tackling, it wouldn’t be wise. You lose a good player in a tackling drill during the season, you wouldn’t be too happy about that. Our guys have tackled well, all in all, and we need to continue to keep getting better.” … Harbaugh’s weekly press conference was attended by a large group of girls from Roland Park School. The NFL club was given the first question and a student asked Harbaugh if he was impressed with the play of the secondary. “I was impressed with how the secondary stepped up, good question and one we appreciate,” he said. “I thought they played together very well.” … Rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher drew a personal foul for an extremely light shove to the back of a Bronco after the whistle had blown. “You saw it, right,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not concerned about it.” Oher drew praise for his ability to play left and right tackle. “He’ll be the first to tell you he’s got a long way to go, and he’s a really determined guy,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very intelligent, he’s very mature, he works really hard at it. To play left and right tackle at the level he’s played at as a rookie is quite an accomplishment.” … Harbaugh declined to comment on whether Broncos center Casey Wiegmann moved his head to draw safety Ed Reed offsides. “I can’t comment on the officials,” he said. … Running back Willis McGahee continues to not play much as Ray Rice keeps emerging as one of the more versatile offensive players in the league. He lost a yard on two carries against the Broncos, catching one pass for four yards. “I haven’t heard anything from Willis,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure Willis like any great player wants to be out there playing because he’s a talented guy and he can help us. He’s also the kind of guy that understands, ‘If I just keep doing what I’m doing in this offense, I’m going to get my shot and be a big part of what we’re doing.’” Harbaugh also referenced Le’Ron McClain, L.J. Smith and Demetrius Williams as players who he expects to contribute going forward. … Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe split time at inside linebacker fairly evenly with Ellerbe recording three tackles and Gooden credited with two stops. “That’s two good, young linebackers,” Harbaugh said. “I think Vic Fangio’s done a great job with those guys. They’re playing next to Ray Lewis at a high level, both of them in different situations. Watch Tavares Gooden running down the field on kickoff coverage, it’s fun to watch. And watch Ellerbe block on the kickoff return that went for a touchdown. It’s defense and it’s special teams, and they’ve done a good job.” … Nickel back Chris Carr recorded the first sack of his career against the Broncos. “That’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to blitz,” he said. “I feel like I’ve played well. I’ve been taking a lot of pride in that. I haven’t gotten much credit in the media, but that doesn’t bother me. I feel like I’ve been doing my job.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.