Sep 25, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Kyle Arrington (24) and inside linebacker Zach Orr (54) run after intercepting the ball during the second half of a football game against the Jacksonville Jaguarsat EverBank Field. The Baltimore Ravens won 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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They say defense wins championships and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens are proof. Can the Ravens prove the old sports cliché again?
The Baltimore Ravens offense has been inconsistent and the defense has carried the team to a 3-0 record. There was a time where this was the standard operating procedure for the purple and black. From 2000-2011 the Ravens were consistently a dominant defensive driven team. The Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV with a defense that was arguably the greatest defense of all time.
While a good defensive never goes out of style, it has been harder to win with just a great defense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers mimicked what the Ravens accomplished in 2002. The Patriots Super first Super Bowl win was much more about a dominant defense than it was about Tom Brady. As the 2000’s kept going though, it became clear that the quarterback was driving things in the NFL.
Three quarterbacks represented an AFC team in the Super Bowl 13 times since the 2001 season and there names are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Joe Flacco was the one other quarterback that broke into the mix during that time. Tom Brady has won 4 of 6 Super Bowls. Peyton Manning is 1-2 and Ben Roethlisberger is 2-1 in the Super Bowl.
The NFC has seen more of a mix but great quarterbacks still have prevailed. Eli Manning won two Super Bowls, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both won a Super Bowl as well. It was starting to seem like the Super Bowl was determined by whichever great quarterback got on the biggest roll.
Than the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos each won a Super Bowl with great defenses. The 2015 Denver Broncos won with the same model as the 2000 Ravens. In fact Trent Dilfer had a better statistical Super Bowl than Manning did against the Panthers. Yes, the Broncos had Manning, but they were no longer winning because of that fact.
Sep 25, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) tackles Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas (80) in second half at EverBank Field. Baltimore Ravens won 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Can The Ravens Defense Stack Up:
Now we know that great defense can carry a team to a championship just like it did in 2000. I’m not going to start comparing the 2016 Ravens to the 2000 Ravens defense. I refuse to even compare the 2015 Broncos defense to that gold standard. However a defense doesn’t have to be the greatest of all time to be special. Is the Ravens defense worthy of a championship.
The Ravens defense is allowing just 250.3 yards per game which ranks second in the NFL. The Ravens are giving up just 14.7 points per game. This means if the Ravens offense scores just two touchdowns, the Ravens have a good chance of winning the game.
Let’s compare these stats to the 2015 Denver Broncos and the 2000 Ravens (keeping in mind the 2016 Ravens have played just three games). The 2015 Broncos gave up 283.1 yards per game and 18.5 points per game. The 2000 Ravens defense allowed 247.9 yards per game and 10.3 points per game. Essentially the Ravens defense is on pace to be one of the best defenses of the modern era. If the Ravens play this way for a full season a Super Bowl is absolutely possible.
Sep 25, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) runs the ball in the second half as Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) defends at EverBank Field. Baltimore Ravens won 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Why The Ravens Defense Is So Good
The Ravens pass defense has been their weakness for a while. This season however it has been a strength. The Ravens front seven takes the run away and makes teams one dimensional. The Ravens have an improved secondary and a speedy group of linebackers that are given plenty of chances to shine. With Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb playing amazing in the back end of the Ravens defense, Dean Pees has more flexibility. Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright now have more deep help. They can play more aggressive now and are winning the match up most of the time (all you can ask a corner to do).
When it has mattered most the Ravens defense has been a brick wall. The Ravens gave the Jaguars what seemed like a million chances to beat them. In the fourth quarter the Ravens defense stopped the Jaguars. The Bills stayed within striking range of the Ravens when they scored a touchdown in week one. When the Bills scored that touchdown the pressure was on. The Ravens offense only scored one touchdown and the defense had to win the game.
The Ravens defense is built for the passing league that the NFL is. In three games the Ravens have nine sacks and five interceptions. The Ravens couldn’t make a big defensive play to save their lives last season. This year the Ravens are making these kind of plays left and right. The Ravens are tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks tallied. They are tied for second in interceptions.
The Ravens have done this without Elvis Dumervil. When Dumervil returns the Ravens defense could be even better. Terrell Suggs had two sacks last week against the Jaguars and looked as sizzling as ever. When Dumervil is back, the Ravens will have one of the best pass rushing combinations in football.
Last season we saw what Von Miler and DeMarcus Ware have done for the Broncos. We know how incredibly important pass rush can be. Quarterbacks still rule the world, but now pass rushers can rule the roost. Remember one thing though. The Ravens offense may be struggling but Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl MVP. If and when the Ravens get the offense going they could have a dominant defense and a red hot quarterback. In that case, the Ravens would have a great chance to make some noise in the playoffs.