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Ravens Defense: Bend-But-Don't-Break

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September 10, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw (91) celebrates his sack with linebacker Paul Kruger (99) against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
September 10, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw (91) celebrates his sack with linebacker Paul Kruger (99) against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

The Baltimore Ravens defense has had the great reputation of being among the best in the league for more than a decade. The 2012 NFL season does not appear to be changing that trend as evidenced by the way they dismantled the Cincinnati Bengals offense in the 44-13 victory on Monday Night Football.

However, when you look inside the numbers, it's not the yardage allowed that will impress you as much as the points allowed and turnovers. Traditionally, the Ravens mantra on defense has been "bend-but-don't-break," meaning they will lay off opposing offenses between the 20-yard lines, but stiffen up once the opponents gets into the Red Zone.

I've said in these spaces over and over that the only defensive statistic that truly matters is points allowed and the Ravens have been at or near the top of that category year-in and year-out. Recent evidence is proof positive from last week's game where the Bengals had over 300 yards of total offense, yet that translated to only 13 points for the game.

Twice, Andy Dalton drove Cincy deep into Baltimore territory only to fail to convert on third-down, leading to short field goals. Only once did the Bengals crack the goal-line and that was right before the end of the first half on a bold fourth-down call.

If the Ravens can continue this trend, then the Philadelphia Eagles may put up a bunch of yards during the game but if their offense can't crack the tough Ravens defense when their collective backs are up against the wall, those yardage stats won't be worth the paper they're written on.