Friday, October 31, 2008

Ravens use defense, single-wing to top Raiders


Monday, October 27, 2008

(10-27) 00:49 PDT BALTIMORE, (AP) --

When he took over the Baltimore Ravens, rookie head coach John Harbaugh's first priority was to surround himself with experienced assistants.

Harbaugh has done a fine job of running the team, yet the wisdom of his staff has played a sizable role in helping turn around a club that stumbled to a 5-11 finish a year ago under Brian Billick.

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and special teams coach Jerry Rosburg each had their units performing at peak efficiency Sunday in a 29-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Ryan won a personal duel with twin brother Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator of the Raiders, by overseeing a defense that limited Oakland to 35 yards in taking a 19-0 halftime lead. Baltimore finished with four sacks and limited the Raiders to 2-for-13 on third downs.

"Just another victory over my brother," Rex said. "I'll let him get on the plane, go home, and then I'll call him and rub it in a little bit."

Baltimore's special teams flourished too, led by backup punt returner Jim Leonhard, who returned four kicks for 63 yards — including a 46-yarder that set up a touchdown.

Cameron, meanwhile, has added a huge dose of creativity to an offense that has long been Baltimore's weakness. Against Oakland, the Ravens unveiled their version of the single wing, with backup quarterback Troy Smith taking snaps while starter Joe Flacco lined up as a wide receiver on the left side.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called it the "Suggs Package," a joking reference to linebacker Terrell Suggs' assertion that Smith should be the starting quarterback.

Smith ran for 13 yards on three carries, including a pitch to Ray Rice that gained 19 more, before both quarterbacks showed their athleticism on a highlight-reel play in the third quarter. Smith heaved a sideline pass to Flacco, who made an excellent grab on the run after getting behind linebacker Ricky Brown.

"By the time I caught the ball, I was leaning over. I stumbled as long as I could," said Flacco, who was downed at the Oakland 6. "My feet were just getting drilled by the rest of my body. They were trying to keep up but they couldn't."

The play led to a field goal for a 22-3 lead, and the way the Baltimore defense was playing, that was more than enough.

Credit Cameron for making things interesting on a unit known for its conservative nature.

"We want to be real aggressive. We want to be very creative in what we're doing offensively," Harbaugh said.

The Raiders would love to do likewise, but quarterback JaMarcus Russell is still learning the game behind a young offensive line. Operating under duress for most of the afternoon, Russell went 15-for-33 for 228 yards and an interception.

"You have to grow up fast and I think, with certain situations, you become better," he said. "It's tough out there, man — I promise."

Flacco's reception aside, Rob Ryan's defense improved in the second half. But the Raiders, who were coming off an uplifting 13-10 overtime win over the New York Jets, couldn't come up with an appropriate encore.

"I feel like the defense didn't do their job in the first half," safety Gibril Wilson said. "The second half was a little better. But we have to be able to stop the run. We have to get off the field after third down. Those two things have been our Achilles Heel."

Baltimore ran for 192 yards and was an impressive 10-for-18 on third down. And Oakland had no answer for the Ravens' gadget plays.

"That's all new stuff, but you have to prepare for stuff on the run," Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "Cam Cameron, our hat goes off to him. They schemed us, and they executed. And Rex Ryan had that defense ready, and they out-executed us. They wanted it more."

Notes:@ Ravens special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo left with an ankle injury. ... Oakland has lost four of five and has yet to score more than 23 points in a game. ... It was the 100th win for the Ravens. Their first came against Oakland in 1996... Suggs recorded his 50th career sack.

Hearst Communications Inc.

No comments: