The Ravens have the league's #2 ranked defense. Last year they had the NFL's #1 rated defesne. Last year, teams feared this defense and prepared for a war each week. This year, while opponents respect this defense, they no longer fear it. It used to mean that as long as the offense didn't lose the game through too many turnovers, the defense would cover their butts and if necessary, win the game. This season, that just isn't happening. The loss of Adalius Thomas to the Patriots and Trevor Pryce to injury has taken over 20 sacks from last year out of the picture. The combination of those two players last year freed up both Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott to accumulate over 20 sacks themselves as well. Together, this has had a profound effect on the Ravens abilities to disrupt the passing game and cause the turnovers necessary to give the woeful offense the short field that almost always leads to some sort of points, be it field goals or sometimes even touchdowns!
Even with shutdown corner Chris McAlister and All-Pro safety Ed Reed in the secondary, just about any NFL quarterback will find an open receiver given enough time. McAlister's injury and subsequent absence in the Bills game certainly hurt, as replacement Corey Ivy was burned a couple of times and penalized on the long balls to Buffalo's Lee Evans. While Ivy filled in okay during Samare Rolle absence and was adequate as the nickle-bak, he was horrible in the roll of the lockdown corner! Playing too far back off the line, he was constantly beaten on the underneath throws and when he manned up, was burned on the deep patterns.
The defensive line has continued to stuff the run, with huge and athletic defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg keeping the offensive linemen off of Ray Lewis, allowing him to rack up the tackles. However, the loss of the pass rush has hurt this team. Having Pryce return after the Bye week for the Monday Night Football game in Pittsburgh on November 5th will help the pass rush. However, teams just won't cower in fear every time Ray Lewis walks out of the tunnel and does his pre-game dance each Sunday. At times, it's looked like the ravens expected this to happen, and then the team just didn't show up to back up his chest thumping and foot stomping.
Either way, unless the offense steps up its game, it just won't be able to carry this team to its goal, as it did in the 2001 Super Bowl victory season.