The Baltimore Ravens are known for their defensive prowess throughout their history. Most of their All-Time greats were defensive players. After leading the NFL in scoring defense last season, this year's Ravens defense finds themselves trying to figure out how to once again be a shutdown unit.
Baltimore is allowing a 25-point per game average through one quarter of the season. That's the 10th most in the NFL. Last year's group only gave up 17.7 points per game which was the second best average among NFL teams. The Ravens gave up over 500 yards in total offense in back to back games for the first time in team history.
Despite the shortcomings on defense that helped lead to consecutive losses, head coach John Harbaugh isn't hitting the panic button.
"The good news is there's an opportunity to get better in our league. It's not like college football where there's one loss and you're out," Harbaugh said on Monday, September 30, 2019. “It starts in Pittsburgh which is always a big challenge. They're a very good team, a big rival. We just need to go in there and find a way to win the game."
Safety Tony Jefferson is confident in the Ravens defense. He urged the group to display what they're capable of doing in their next game, which is on the road against the Steelers.
"We're not happy with how we're playing. Let's move on to another divisional game. We have to get it fixed. It's execution and tackling. We have to make more plays. We're a good football team. We just have to show it. We'll be fine," Jefferson said after Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale is his second year overseeing the defense. Martindale loves to employ various blitzes and aggressively hunt down opposing quarterbacks. His attacking mindset fits the Ravens trademark. It's something that defensive tackle Michael Pierce thinks helped contribute to last year's success on defense. But with new players in this year's defense the total team effort is taking time to come together.
"We have a brand to protect. There are new parts that have to get immediately. We haven't gelled yet. I'd like to see that come along. We have a group that's relatively young. Even if somebody makes a mistake on defense, effort can cover up some of those mistakes. That's what you saw last year. We weren't perfect, but we were the No. 1 defense. Everybody picked up the slack if someone missed the assignment on a play. We have to get back to that," Pierce said.
Linebacker Patrick Onswuasor echoed Pierce's sentiments.
"We have to get back to the drawing board and play Ravens football. Everybody needs to get on the same page," Onswuasor said. "We're going to get back to that. That's what we do. We all talk and communicate to make sure it gets across the board. Everybody has an assignment to do and we just have to do our job."
This week the Ravens face their fiercest rival in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are 1 - 3 coming off a convincing win over the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. This year's rivalry clash won't feature Ben Roethlisberger since he is on injured reserve due to an elbow injury.
Mason Rudolph took Roethlisberger's place and has 515 passing yards to go along with six touchdown passes and two interceptions.
The defense will still have their hands full with All - Pro wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Connor. The challenge of stopping the Steelers offense comes at a time when the defense is reeling. However, they have faith in a rebound sooner than later.
"We'll figure it out. We will never lose confidence in this defense or this organization. We just have to play better football," Onswuasor said.