In Sunday’s 55-20 win over the Oakland Raiders, Ravens defenders channeled their inner Dikembe Mutombo, swatting six of quarterback Carson Palmer’s passes at the line. All that was missing was the finger-wagging.
“It’s something that [defensive coordinator] Dean Pees has been harping on us all week,” linebacker Paul Kruger, who knocked down one pass and intercepted another, said Sunday. “We’ve been practicing it. It’s a credit to the coaches, to just making sure we had all the little things in our minds, that really paid off today.”
The Ravens knocked down eight passes, and six came from defensive linemen or outside linebackers as the Ravens eschewed their usual space-eating defensive tackles for a more nimble defensive front. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and rookie defensive end DeAngelo Tyson each batted down two passes. Kruger and outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who spent a lot of time with a hand on the ground, swatted one each.
Entering Sunday's game, the defensive linemen and outside linebackers had knocked down just seven passes in eight games.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt bats down that many in a quarter. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But we saw in the Week 7 loss to the Texans the value of tipping passes and turning them into interceptions. That’s what Kruger did on his, snuffing out a pass to a wideout in the flat and halting his pass rush to put his hands in the air. Kruger's hands won’t be confused with the soft set of mitts on tight end Dennis Pitta, but he was able to secure the pick.
Coach John Harbaugh said Monday afternoon that there was a sense of pride when he saw that his defensive coordinator’s teaching point was finally starting to hit home with his players.
“It was more of an emphasis,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been trying to get that for a while and there’s a lot of things that get build into it -- assignment things and technique things. And to see that happen as a coach, whenever things start to kind of fall in place that way with a technique and you get the results or the production like you do with the batted balls, it’s a pretty rewarding feeling."
For a defensive front that has struggled to sack the quarterback, the swatted passes are one thing Harbaugh certainly won’t wag his finger at, though Mutombo might wag his as a sign of approval.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times