Complain all you want about the secondary or the linebackers, but we all know the games are won or lost in the trenches. On both sides of the ball, as goes the offensive and defensive lines, goes the game. The Baltimore Ravens are no different than any other team and looking at the offensive success we have enjoyed this season is a result of the improvement in the five guys in front of Joe Flacco. The addition of rookie Michael Oher has bolstered the time that Flacco has to throw and opened bigger holes for the running backs. Take Oher out of the picture, especially with an injured Jared Gaither and see how average our offense would return to.
Same goes, perhaps even more so, with the defensive line.
(More on "It All Starts With The Pass Rush" after the 'Jump')
In 2006, when our team went 13-3 in the regular season, the team had 28 interceptions. Contributing to that stat was the 61 sacks that the team had, including four guys with at least 10 sacks. The Ravens were absolute beasts on defense that year and the opposing QB's knew they had mere seconds to drop back and release the ball or else find themselves flat on their backs with their facemasks buried in the grass. Therefore, they released the ball earlier in the play than they wanted to and thus the increase in interceptions. My, how good our secondary looked that season, huh?
Move up on year to 2007, and the totals dropped to 17 interceptions aided by 32 sacks, resulting in a embarassing 5-11 record. Fast forward to last season (2008) and while the interceptions went up to 26 the sacks stayed about the same at 34. However the pass pressure was still there and while if the sacks went up, some of those interceptions might not have resulted. We made the playoffs and were four minutes away from the Super Bowl and that was without much of an offense.
Therefore, as I've said so often this season, improve the pass pressure and the rest will fall into place. The opposing QB's won't be able to sit back there or move around like Brett Favre did this past Sunday and wait for one of the wide receivers to break into the open ,thus making our secondary look foolish and either lost or commit the painful penalties that have us cursing the TV or jumping up and down on the sofa like idiots. You'd be amazed how good our corners would look with pressure on the QB by our front four or five. In front of any great corners in the NFL stand a group of pass rushers that get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
So what can the Ravens do in this Bye Week to regroup and improve the pass rush that has not gotten either the sacks or the pressure necessary to help the secondary look better? Whether it be the schemes or the personnel, it just has not been working as 14 sacks and seven interceptions, which puts us on target for mediocre totals of 37 sacks and 18 interceptions. More importantly, this team has proven so far that while the sacks are not the issue, the pressure has not gotten to the opposition and their QB's are racking up great stats against us, especially in our frustrating three losses.
Regardless of the improvements in the offense, unless we improve in the defensive pass pressure, the team will continue to make the highlights, but not the post season.