It seems hard to believe, but for the first time since 2000-01 when the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl 35, fans are talking about how good the offense is and how poor the defense has played. It used to be that if the Ravens could put 10 points on the board, the defense would protect that lead. Now, in order to win, the offense seems to need to outscored the opposition and hope they don't leave enough time on the clock for them to come back and beat us.
So where oh where has our defense gone? The 2008 defense was among the league's best and the 2009 one was almost as good. However, in 2010, the Ravens defensive unit has slipped considerably and is middle of the pack overall after being a top five group for the previous two seasons. Let's compare the numbers over the past three years to see where the slip has happened:
Overall Defense (Total yards allowed/game):
2008: 261.1 (2nd in NFL) 2009: 300.5 (3rd) 2010: 316.4 (11th)
2008: 15.2 2009: 16.3 2010: 18.3 (22nd)
(For more defensive statistic comparisons, click on the 'Jump')
Rush Yards Allowed/game:
2008: 81.4 (3rd) 2009: 93.2 (5th) 2010: 99.8 (10th)
Passing Yards allowed/game:
2008: 179.7 2009: 207.2 2010: 216.7
Opponent's QB Rating:
2008: 60.6 2009: 71.9 2010: 81.6
3rd Down Conversion Percentage:
2008: 34% 2009: 37% 2010: 39%
While the difference in the numbers in each category are not huge increases from year-to-year, the cumulative effect of the downward trend in every statistical category has been played out on the field over the past three years. Allowing an average of 55 more total yards per game and what translates to an additional field goal in every contest can be the difference between winning those close game and losing them, especially to the tough teams. In 2010, the Ravens three losses have been by a combined total of only 13 points. While the rushing and passing yards have increased every year since 2008, the alarmingstatistic that stands out is the opponent's QB Rating. Regardless of how much faith you put into this relatively new stat, the 25% increase in the rating since 2008 is pointing out the obvious issue in the Ravens secondary in 2010. Opposing quarterbacks are finding out that they can pick apart the team's secondary and the only way this is going to improve is if the Ravens are able to put pressure on the passer, which has also been an issue, adding to the problem.
At their current pace, the Baltimore Ravens' defense will lose that reputation that it has held for the past decade, striking fear in opposing offenses and always being counted on to carry the offense and protect a lead. This season's issues will need to be addressed if the team plans on going deep into the post season, much less getting to that big game while the window remains open for veterans such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.