Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/16/12
Last Sunday should have been a day to celebrate for Ravens' fans. The home team beat the Dallas Cowboys and solidified their lead in the AFC North. But a day later, breaking news hit Baltimore like a punch to the gut when it was announced that Ray Lewis was out for the entire season. Lewis tore his triceps in Sunday's game was taken out. It was a severe blow to a man who has been the leader of the Ravens' defense and the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 1996. But the team has more problems than losing Lewis. These problems lie within the defense itself. Although Lewis has been a vocal leader in the inside part of the defense which is the strongest part of it, the outside part has been anything but consistent with him. While Ray Lewis has given Ravens a solid brick wall for opposing running backs, the secondary has been spotty at best. Since the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, the secondary has given up close games that the Ravens could have won and advanced in the playoffs. For example, the Ravens' inside defense held off parts of the Colts' offense in the divisional playoff game in 2006, but Peyton Manning then found where he could pick apart the secondary and get the team in position to score even if they only settled for field goals. For years, the Ravens have been a team that had a loud and intimidating player but not enough around him. It wasn't enough that they had less than Trent Dilfer to lead them to a super bowl when there should have been more than him to have on offense to give Lewis more rings than one. It wasn't enough that they had Suggs as an added bonus to pressure quarterbacks like Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger, when they can be quick later on in games to maneuver and throw deep to lead them to win. The secondary of the Ravens is, and always has been, the part of the team that has been missing key pieces of the franchise. This year it's hurting along with Lewis. One of their top cornerbacks, Lardarius Webb, who is a major part of their secondary, has a torn ACL and even though there are reports that Terrell Suggs could return in a few weeks, the team needs a lot more than just Joe Flacco to keep the momentum on offense. Though Flacco has been more consistent on offense and has gotten much more praise for his consistency since his play in the 2011 AFC title game where the team was close to upsetting the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, there is still more pressure on him to deliver in big games in the post-season and the injuries to the Ravens' defense only compound the pressure big time on Flacco. Head coach John Harbaugh will no doubt shift most of focus on being defensive minded to more offense minded. With the injuries piling up, the team will expect more offense from Flacco to win games. But there's an old saying in football that while offense can sell the tickets, defense win championships. And the while the Ravens have had a vocal face as their leader, he hasn't had a lot of backup to win many more rings. For 16 years the Ravens have made Ray Lewis the star of the franchise and he has a career that will land him the hall of fame. But his skills have been in decline for a few years now and if the franchise wants to win it needs a new identity. Fixing the team's secondary is a good place to start for Ozzie Newsome.
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