By Samuel Njoku
It seems like forever ago when the Ravens defeated the Bengals in the season opener of the 2012 season. The Ravens defeated Cincinnati 44-13 and dominated on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Since then, the Ravens have struggled in at least one phase of football on a game-by-game basis. During the bye week, the coaches focused on correcting the small issues that plagued the team on gameday. This past Sunday against the Browns, fans saw a glimpse of the direction the football team was heading towards.
Baltimore (6-2) would defeat Cleveland (2-7) on the road 25-15. The win improved their record within the division to 3-0. The undefeated mark against the division will pay dividends for the team when seeding becomes a factor. But the most important aspect of their win against Cleveland was how well the defense played. There are plenty of fans who think that the defense played lackluster football. Those people make valid points. The Ravens still allowed Trent Richardson to run for 105 yards. And the Ravens would still give the Browns a chance with a plethora of redzone trips throughout the game.
But this was a better defensive unit than we’ve seen in recent weeks. The Browns had won two of their last three contests prior to this game. They were a hot team that some picked to win that game. The Ravens did a great job containing Richardson and held the offense to five field goals. Had Baltimore allowed even one touchdown, the momentum of the game could have swung tremendously in favor of Cleveland. A lot of the credit goes to Dean Pees.
The Defensive Coordinator has been visibly frustrated with the lack of production from the defense. Along with the rest of the coaching staff, Pees used the offseason to improve a defense with great potential for success. At least for now, it looks to be heading in the right direction. The biggest concern heading towards the end of the season is the play of the secondary. Six of the next eight games are being played against former Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Coach Harbaugh liked what he saw against Cleveland, but knows they’ll have to step it up in the next few weeks.
“We did a better job,” said Harbaugh. “It’s not just the secondary; it’s the whole coverage package. We did a better job matching up routes underneath, for the most part, and yet there were a number of routes that we could have matched up better. So, there are a lot of coverages that we’re talking about. We just have to keep building on that, continue to build on the discipline underneath and how we match routes, eyes, what we’re seeing, what windows we’re looking through.”
If the Ravens can continue to improve defensively, Baltimore has a great chance to earn a first round bye for the second straight season. If they regress, they’ll most likely have to fight for a wild-card. The offense is one of the best in football, but has been inconsistent this year. If the defense can help them out like they did on Sunday, this team will be dangerous for the remainder of the season.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.