Ravens hurt by injuries, poor play in secondary

The secondary was considered a weak spot for the Ravens coming into the 2014 season. Now, that weak spot is catching up with them.

Baltimore came into its bye week at 6-4 and in last place in the competitive AFC North, where all four teams have winning records. However, the Ravens currently have a losing record against the division (2-3) after losing both games to Cincinnati and splitting their two games against Pittsburgh. The secondary was badly exposed by Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for six touchdowns for the second straight game to lead the Steelers to a 43-23 win over the Ravens on “Sunday Night Football” on Nov. 2.

The game got nasty, as linebackers Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw were both fined for illegal hits. Suggs was fined $8,262 for a late hit on Steelers running back LeGarrete Blount, and Upshaw was fined $20,000 for a hit in the neck area on Roethlisberger. During the week that followed, top cornerback Jimmy Smith underwent foot surgery, and will be out for the rest of the season. The Ravens also shook up their secondary by releasing cornerback Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks, promoting Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad, and give more playing time to safety Anthony Levine. The moves seemed to work, as the defense shut down the Tennessee offense and help the Ravens go into their bye week with a 21-7 win over the Titans on Nov. 9.

While the secondary is struggling, the outside linebacker duo of Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are causing major problems for offensive lines and quarterbacks. Dumervil is second in the NFL with 10 and a half sacks, while Suggs has five of his own. Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosely has 90 tackles, including four for loss, and also has two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The Ravens are fifth against the run, allowing just under 85 rushing yards per game, but with their problems in the secondary are 21st in pass defense, allowing just over 251 passing yards per game.

Even with those issues in the secondary, the Ravens are still fifth in scoring defense, allowing just 18.1 points per game. Baltimore has struggled with consistency on offense at times, but is 10th in the league in rushing, averaging just over 124 yards per game. Quarterback Joe Flacco has the Ravens squarely in the middle of the league at 16th in passing, averaging just under 241 yards per game. Baltimore is tied for sixth in the league in scoring, averaging 26.1 points per game, even after losing tight end Dennis Pitta to a hip injury for the second straight season.

The Ravens will wrap up November by going to New Orleans for Monday Night Football on Nov. 24, and then will wrap up Thanksgiving weekend by welcoming San Diego on Nov. 30. Baltimore will go to Miami for the second straight season on Dec. 7, and then host Jacksonville on Dec. 14. The Ravens will go to Houston to face J.J. Watt and the Texans on Dec. 21, and then will have a chance to even their record against the division when they wrap up the regular season at home against Cleveland in Week 17. Given how tight the AFC North is, the game is likely to have major playoff implications.

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