The Ravens travel to Philly on Sunday, September 16, 2012, to face the Eagles... and one of their main concerns is to shore up their run defense after being gashed by Benjarvus Green-Ellis in their win over Cincy on Monday night...
This is easier said than done. No amount of improved gap-protection scheme or refined technique can take way from what LeSean McCoy can bring to a running attack when he is on...
Of course, if Joe Flacco can give you a 28-point lead throught the air going into the 4th quarter again, it won't matter...
But if the game is close, as most pundits believe it will be on Sunday, Shady McCoy could be the difference-maker...
The 4th year veteran out of Pitt has hit his stride.
He's good for at least 25 touches a game...and has a unique cut-back technique and a stutter-step that could leave the Ravens front three and OLB's in shambles if he is not contained.
Baltimore surrendered 129 total rushing yards to the Cincinnati Bengals in their first regular-season game without injured outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and departed outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. That cannot happen against the Eagles on Sunday if the Ravens intend to win on the road.
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis logged 91 rushing yards on 18 carries, giving him a 5.1-yard average. He scored on a 6-yard, fourth-down touchdown run after bouncing off a couple of Ravens defenders. “We’ve got to stop the run better on first down, without question,” Harbaugh said immediately after the game. “We did not do a good job with that.
“There were a lot of second-and-threes, third-and-ones and that’s going to be tough to defend no matter what you do, so I think it starts with that.” After watching the game tape, Harbaugh’s stance didn’t change.
Asked how important it will be to tighten up the run defense going forward, Harbaugh said “very important.” “Run-defense is critically important,” he added. “It’s a staple for us. It’s how we base our whole philosophy defensively. That’s where it starts, and we’re going to have to do it. It was all very correctable stuff. That’s the good news.”
The Ravens have ranked in the league’s top five in rush defense the past six seasons.
“It was just little minor technique errors on our part that we can fix, we should fix,” Harbaugh said. “Probably guys trying to do more than they actually should try to do, and [they need to] continue to have confidence in the guys around them a little more.”
One player who shined was linebacker Ray Lewis, who notched a game-high 14 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. After the game, the middle linebacker said he feels “totally better” at his new trimmed weight.
“He was all over the field,” Harbaugh said. “He’s moving really well, he’s still physical at the point of attack.”
Lewis and his crew will be severely tested by the zone-blocking running attack of the Eagles and McCoy in particular.
It's no secret that the Eagles and QB Michael Vick intend to wear the Ravens front seven down with McCoy, who has averaged over 100 yards rushing per game for over two years now in addition to his 30-to-40 pass reception yards per game, too.
McCoy rarely fumbles, also...although he did lose a crucial fumble in the Eagles' 17-16 win over the Cleveland Browns last week in their opener.
We'll see what defensive adjustments the Ravens make to take away the rushing lanes that BenJarvus Green-Ellis exploited so glaringly against them on Monday night. Had that been a closer game, the success the Bengals had running against the Ravens' 3-4 would be all we were talking about today.
It was upsetting to a lot of fans in Baltimore that Green-Ellis just kept advancing on nearly every carry with no problems. The fact that Harbaugh commented on it hopefully means that defensive coordinator Dean Pees will pay some attention to it prior to the Ravens' attempt at shutting down McCoy next weekend.
Any way you look at it, the challenge to stop McCoy and the Eagles' running game has suddenly become a crucial test for the Ravens, who must prove for the first time in years that their overall team defense is not in decline.