Baltimore Ravens Will Go as Far as Their Defense Takes Them

By jeffreykryglik
Evan Habeeb- USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens were once again victorious as they trounced the Houston Texans 30-9 in their Week 3 matchup. Despite the high point total for Baltimore, it wasn’t the offense that stole the show in today’s contest.

Both teams gained a combined 500 yards of total offense — Houston gained 264; Baltimore gained 236. This game was more about which defense capitalized more on its opportunities, and the Ravens stood tall today.

Three sacks of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and constant harassment in the backfield all day long from Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are only parts of what told the story for this Ravens defense and just how far they’ve come in three weeks. Reducing running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate to 20 carries for 90 yards and scoreless is something else this defense can hang their heads on.

The Ravens can also lay claim to the fact that this is the first time since the 2010 season that their defense has held two opponents scoreless in back-to-back games — Baltimore kept the Cleveland Browns out of the end zone in their 14-6 Week 2 victory.

This time around, three guys stood out in my eyes, two of which I gave game balls to last week: Daryl Smith, Suggs and James Ihedigbo. I’m not knocking the efforts of stellar performers like Arthur Jones, Haloti Ngata Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Matt Elam because the defense has collectively put together two-straight solid weeks.

Looking as Smith’s performance today, on “Ray Lewis Ring of Honor Day” nevertheless, the 30-year-old tallied 10 total tackles and a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown — the first touchdown of his 10-year NFL career. He also added a pass defended and a hit on Schaub, who passed for a paltry 194 yards on 35 attempts as that play-action passing game never seemed to get going.

While the Ravens enshrined their former great inside linebacker, Smith showed that while he may not be able to replace Lewis’ emotional impact on the defense, he certainly brings a physical presence where he leads by example.

Another player whose play has been doing the talking has been Suggs. After adding his third sack on the season this week, the 30-year-old has already eclipsed his sack total from a year ago (2.0), where he played just eight games after dealing with an Achilles tendon injury. The 11-year veteran has a sack in each of the Ravens’ first three games, and it appears as if Suggs is back and better than ever physically.

The way that he has been able to manhandle and dominate offensive lineman and beat them with quickness off the ball has allowed the Baltimore front seven to regain a swagger it didn’t have last year. Dumervil rushing the passer on the other side of the line always helps too.

Finally, Ihedigbo at the strong safety position continues to develop into a vocal leader at the back end of the defense, and his play is backing him up. He had nine total tackles today, two for a loss, and also defended two passes. The 29-year-old’s ability to make plays inside the box has aided this linebacker group for the Ravens, and his pass coverage has improved significantly from the Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos.

The Ravens have now improved to 2-1 on the regular season, while the Texans have fallen to 2-1. Baltimore owns this matchup since the Texans entered the league in 2002. Houston is just 1-7 now against the Ravens, with their lone winning coming last season in blowout fashion at home 43-13.

This year’s results were much different as the Texans will return home to face the Seattle Seahawks in what could be a key game to watch in Week 4. The Ravens will travel to Orchard Park, New York to take on the 1-2 Buffalo Bills.

This could be a trap game for the Ravens as the Bills just dropped a close one to the 2-1 New York Jets. We’ll see how this defense fares against rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel and the rest of that Bills offensive attack.

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