DOUG KAPUSTIN, MCT
November 24, 2011
2. The strength of the Ravens pass rush is not only talent, but depth.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say the Ravens pass rush had an outstanding night. When you tie the franchise record with nine sacks, the numbers pretty much speak for themselves. But the way the Ravens went about getting pressure was impressive. You have to believe this is the kind of pass rush that Ozzie Newsome envisioned when he put this team together. The Ravens now have 38 sacks on the year, which is the most in the NFL. Just to put that into perspective for a moment, they had a total of 27 the entire regular season a year ago.
Suggs was obviously the most relentless Raven with three sacks, but he had a lot of help. Haloti Ngata appears to be almost back to 100 percent after battling injuries. He had two sacks, two hurries and a tackle for loss, and unlike Detroit's Ndamukong Suh, he didn't try to stomp anyone while they were still on the ground, which to me kind of seals the argument for which defensive tackle I'd rather have over the next five years.
Corey Redding (2.5 sacks, 4 QB hurries) continues to be the Ravens' most underrated player on defense. He catches some grief for not getting more pressure as a rusher, but in the 3-4 defense, he's been a great fit, sacrificing a lot of personal glory to keep contain and open up lanes for other players. But the main reaspm tje Ravens have improved so much in getting to the quarterback this year is the improved play of guys like Paul Kruger and the addition of Pernell McPhee.
Kruger's commitment to become a better player physically and mentally this season is obvious. He'll be the first to admit he's been able to make the leap by fully grasping that playing in the NFL is a full-time, year-round job. The talent has always been there, but now he's putting in the work as well. And McPhee is emerging as one of the Ravens best late-round steals ever.
It's fun to watch Pagano just keep sending his guys at quarterbacks in waves. Occasionally, they're going to get beat. It seems pretty clear the Ravens were bailed out when the refs called a very questionable chop block which negated a 75-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn. But it still feels like the right strategy to be aggressive and try to fluster the other team. The Ravens' secondary is playing well enough right now that if I were Harbaugh, I'd tell Pagano one thing: When in doubt, bring the heat. (Especially against Cleveland and Indianapolis.)
Of course, so much of it comes back to Suggs. With apologies to Ngata, Suggs is still the Ravens most talented player on defense. I didn't get a chance to do it after the game, but I kind of wanted to tease him a bit and ask if Ball So Hard University had been on Fall break the last few weeks. After calling him the most complete defensive player in the NFL and stating that he should be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors earlier in the season, he made me look like I'd spoken a bit too soon after turning in a couple of quiet performances recently. But he came back with a vengeance against the 49ers, terrorizing Alex Smith and blowing up run plays right and left.
"It has been a little while but its the NFL," Sugg said. "I would love to line up every day and get three sacks, I would love that. But its the NFL. Its not going to happen like that. Some teams are going to scheme and key me. But the number one thing is that we win. I got down on myself. I was hard on myself like, Why aint I getting them? Why aint I getting them? But theres a lot of guys with a lot of sacks with a team thats not very good and a team that doesnt have a chance with the playoffs. But, here I am. I have some sacks, and my team is 8-3, and were going on a playoff run."