Defensive Line: B+
It was the best game for the defensive line in regards to pressure and winning the line of scrimmage. They held Chargers’ running back Ryan Mathews in check for the majority of the game and led the way for the huge day for the linebackers in regards to sacks and pressure.
Leading the way was defensive end Arthur Jones, who had a career day. The third-year defensive end had the first two sacks of his career and also had another tackle for a loss.
Jones has started to hit his stride, as he has come into the starting left defensive end job after Pernell McPhee was injured in Week 6. Jones has made the most of his opportunity and should continue to develop over the rest of the season.
Ma’ake Kemoeatu had one of his best efforts of the season, tying a season-high with five tackles. Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody had relatively quiet days compared to Jones and Kemoeatu, as they had three and two tackles respectively.
If the defensive line can continue to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and free up the four linebackers, the Ravens’ defense has a chance to resemble Ravens’ defenses of old.
It was the most complete effort from the linebackers all season, as nearly every linebacker had an impact at some point.
The linebacking corp accounted for four of the team’s season-high six sacks. Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and linebacker/defensive lineman hybrid Courtney Upshaw all registered a sack.
Meanwhile, Jameel McClain led all linebackers in tackles, and was second on the team in that category.
Brendon Ayanbadejo had his biggest effort of the season defensively, as he chipped in with five tackles and a pass defended. None of his tackles were bigger than the third down tackle he made to force the Chargers to punt late in the fourth quarter. That forced punt set up the historic Ray Rice fourth down play that enabled the Ravens to ultimately pull out the miraculous victory.
This unit got a shot in the arm as well, as news surfaced that Ray Lewis will in fact return this season after it was feared he was lost for the season with a torn triceps.
With this unit starting to gel, and Lewis’ return in the not too distant future, it appears the Ravens are on the cusp of turning their season around and rounding into form.
After a bit of a rocky start, the secondary clamped down tighter as the game went on. Philip Rivers had a big first half, as he had 148 yards passing and a touchdown, but had only 80 yards in the second half. Rivers’ inability to get going again in the second half allowed the Ravens to pull of their unlikely comeback.
Nobody in the secondary had a memorable day individually, but the unit as a whole did a great job containing Antonio Gates.
Along with the linebackers, the defensive backs were integral in shutting Gates down to the tune of two catches for 13 yards.
Gates’ inactivity was a key reason why Rivers and the Chargers couldn’t salt the game away despite their 10-point, fourth quarter lead.
Per usual, safety Bernard Pollard led the team in tackles with eight, as he has been the team’s leading tackler since Lewis’ injury.
Cary Williams and Corey Graham had solid days at cornerback, as the Chargers receivers only had 156 yards, which was 12 more yards than Torrey Smith had by himself.
Overall this unit had an unassuming day, which was a good thing in the scheme of things. Considering Ed Reed did little and the secondary forced zero Rivers’ interceptions, which has become a weekly ritual, it was an above average day statistically and on the scoreboard.