After allowing more than 180 rushing yards in three straight games, including a franchise-worst 227 yards in a Week 6 win over the
"I was just thinking, 'Get away. Get away as far as possible,' " defensive end
The Ravens have tightened up against the run since sharpening their focus and making necessary adjustments during their Week 8 bye, though they are not to be confused with the dominant bunch who practically begged opponents to run the ball for the better part of a decade.
Their improved run defense will be tested Sunday in the
Led by second-year back
In the following years, as they started to ask
That's no longer the case, as Ridley is a dynamic runner between the tackles, and situational backs
In their 41-28 win over the
"They have very special running backs. Ridley, I really like the guy. He is explosive and can make things happen," Ravens safety
Keeping tabs on opposing running backs has always been the top priority for the Ravens defense, but during that rough stretch in October, perhaps the only person who could consistently track one was defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who used a laser pointer in the film room.
Pees, who at one point admitted that the state of his defense made him sick, took stock of the unit during the bye week while his players were taking a break. He decided that he was asking players to do things with which they were unfamiliar, and resolved to put them in more comfortable situations. He also tweaked technique and got back to the basics.
"We didn't change the whole structure of the defense, but we have changed some techniques and some things that those guys do that may have helped us," Pees said.
The defense ranked 30th against the run at the start of November, having allowed 142.9 yards per game. But since then, the Ravens have been respectable, setting the edge and funneling running backs into the middle of the defense while allowing an average of 112.9 yards per game.
"I would credit our front — the front five guys really, the defensive line, the outside linebackers," Ravens coach
They have had setbacks, like the regular-season losses to the
A first down would have sealed a win for the Broncos, but the Ravens, down a touchdown at the time, held them to 3 yards on three straight runs and continued to play well through the end of the 38-35 win.
"I mean, the big thing about the Ravens is they play good when they've got to play good," Patriots coach
The Ravens will need to make more of them Sunday to get to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots will likely lean on their up-tempo, no-huddle offense against a Ravens defense that has played more than nine quarters of football the past two weeks. When the Patriots speed things up, shifty backs Woodhead and Vereen are capable of making plays in the run game and as receiving threats.
But if the Ravens can limit the damage done on the ground, they might be in good shape. In each of their four losses this season, the Patriots were held under 100 rushing yards.
The Ravens are confident they can make it five-for-five. That's because now, when they spend time in the film room with Pees and his laser pointer, there is a lot more to feel good about.
"We have so much going right now. Our guys are fighting. We have so much heart," Jones said. "If we take care of business — our assignment, our alignment, our technique — I feel like we can't be beat."