The Baltimore Ravens were tied with the New York Giants for second place in the NFL with 48 sacks during the 2011 regular season. Together they trailed both the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, who led the league with 50 sacks.The Ravens have proved that they can put serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks, getting to them much more often that the opposition got to QB Joe Flacco, who was sacked 31 times during the regular season.
The Ravens defense forced a league-leading 21 fumbles, recovering 11 of them, many of them off of quarterback pressure and sacks. They also picked off 15 passes, good for a tie for 17th in the league and even far behind the New England Patriots 23 interceptions, good enough for second best in the NFL behind the Green Bay Packers' 31 picks.
As good as it is to sack the quarterback, there has never been a QB sack that led to an interception while pass pressure can always lead to the possibility of turning the ball over. Statistics never show the number of pressures a team puts on a QB during the course of a game, nor the results of that pressure and how it turns into interceptions, incompletions and even fumbles off of scrambling attempts.
In the case of the high number of Patriots' interceptions, these can be the direct result of teams facing such an insurmountable task of playing from behind, leading to risky passes that ultimately wind up in the hands of the defensive backs. Teams facing the Baltimore Ravens know they only have so long to get rid of the ball and therefore prematurely throw the ball into coverage rather than get sacked or possibly stripped of the ball.
Therefore, before you only see the number of QB sacks in the box scores and complain about the lack of said sacks, look between the lines and see how much pressure was put on the opposing QB which led to poor passing stats and hopefully the game-changing interceptions. A classic example of this happened last week in the Ravens 20-13 Divisional Round playoff win over the Houston Texans. Baltimore did not officially sack Houston QB T.J. Yates once all game, but pressured him into 18 incompletions in 35 attempts and three interceptions.
Looking at the stats, you can total up the big defensive plays to see how big of an effect that pass pressure puts on the opposing offense, be it through sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, but not pass pressure. The Baltimore Ravens had 48 sacks, 15 interceptions and 21 forced fumbles. The New England Patriots had 40 sacks, 23 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles. Combined the Ravens created 84 big defensive plays while the Patriots had 73.
Many of these plays were the direct result of pass pressure, which as mentioned earlier, is just no an easily verifiable stat. However, you can look at opposing QB's completion percentage, which can be a result of getting the ball away too early because of impending pressure. That shows in the Ravens defense allowing opposing QB' to only complete just under 54% of their passes against them, good for 2nd best in the league. Likewise, the Patriots allowed a completion rate of over 62%, tied for 23 worst in the NFL.
Want to talk specific numbers like sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles to determine the value of a defense? I'll settle for the only defensive stat that truly matters and that is points allowed. The Baltimore Ravens were 3rd in the league, allowing only 16.6 points per game while the Patriots gave up 21.4 points per game, 15th in the NFL.
As far as the other numbers? Give me pass pressure over sacks any day, and I'll gladly take the forced fumbles and interceptions that result but never show in the statistics.