Our Ravens have mastered the art of battling attrition, the ability to bend without break. And since the days of our dark offseason, team-wise, we've stepped off the treadmill and have made strides in the right direction.
Although we're still unsure of what's happening behind the scenes, what matters -- football -- is that our birds are nesting on a solid 3-1 record. Peck down the Colts, Dalton makes bad decisions against the Pats and voila, we've tied Cincinnati for first in the division.
Focus back on us for a second. The Ravens face their third defending division champion in five games. Are we stressing out for no reason? Did we not punish the Panthers a week ago? We trumped the Bengals before they staved off a late comeback. The Steelers were mucked into the pile of dead whole cards, while the Browns guided us to victory after missing out on six points.
Our backend practices against the third-strongest arm in the NFL, what've they done, these Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton guys? Is our defense not battle-tested enough to bring the heat against Andrew Luck and the Colts' potent offense? (Colts are tied with the Falcons; lead league with 344 total yards per game. SO?)
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees praised Terrence Brooks for playing well in his Week 4 debut, playing about 30 snaps, an amount Pees and the staff felt was right to entrust him with.
"We needed to give him [Brooks] a look, we tried to put him in a position when we kind of thought he was getting ready and last week [vs. Panthers] we thought he was ready to do some things for us."
Two deep passes of 17 and 18 yards were completed with the rookie free safety out of Florida State making both tackles. Look out for him on the field in Indy on Sunday.
Baltimore must stop the Colts' offensive system from tiring them out. Pees elaborated:
"It's really sometimes not so much about stopping him [Luck], it's about stopping the whole system. You can get too caught up in just stopping a quarterback and then they beat you some other way. We've just got to stop their whole system. We've got to do a great job across the board on defense. He is a great quarterback. But they've also got great receivers, they've got a Hall of Fame receiver, they've got two great running backs, they've got great talent. Everybody's looks at their passing yards, 320, but they're running for 120, which is not shabby."
Not shabby at all. Pees has done his homework, which is a great sign for Ravens fans to expect a phenomenal defensive effort from a unit who also shares with Pees a deep understanding for the game.
"We're blessed with intelligent football players, he [Pernell McPhee] being one of them. You can do something with guys when they know how to play football. They don't memorize what you're telling them to do, they understand what you're trying to do. When you tell them, 'here's how we want to attack these guys, and here's what we want,' rather than you've got to be in the 'A' gap on this call, he [McPhee] understands. Not only McPhee but we've got a bunch of smart, smart football players."
Pees' preparation speaks volumes to me and the personnel will truly reflect that. Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino did an excellent job balancing the playing time of all four outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and McPhee last week. They all averaged around 40 snaps, which kept the unit fresh and playing at a high level..
The unit will need to stop Indianapolis' backfield that stylistically is similar to ours, with Trent Richardson as their bruiser-back and a nimble, shifty runner in Ahmad Bradshaw. C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will keep busy tracking down touchdown-machines Coby Fleener (2) and Dwayne Allen (3).
Safeties Matt Elam and Darian Stewart caught criticism like fire for their slip-ups last week and Pees admitted that the backend didn't play well in the Cleveland game.
However, the coordinator extolled the second-year strong safety for playing really well at the nickel position with limited reps against the Panthers.
"We just can't let him [T.Y. Hilton] take the top off our defense. That's been the one thing this year we've gotta keep improving on. Last week we played so well, and we gave up one easy touchdown. To me they shouldn't have scored any. A gift. If we quit doing that we could be a really a top defense. Those two they threw on Matt, he [Cam Newton] threw the ball on the money."
The interchangeability of this defense is a blessing. As cliche as this sounds, the sky above Baltimore has no limits.
I could imagine the Colts sliding off their high horse after bullying their divisional rivals in back-to-back weeks. #PickOnSomeoneYourOwnSize