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Ravens consider how to replace Suggs

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BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens suffered a devastating blow in Week 1 when outside linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his left Achilles tendon against the Denver Broncos, ending his season.

Baltimore will start Elvis Dumervil opposite Courtney Upshaw to fill the void Week 2 against Oakland. If the Ravens do not add a free agent for depth, they might rely on rookie Za’Darius Smith to help carry the load.

Other options include moving veteran Albert McClellan from inside linebacker to the outside. Brennen Beyer is the only available linebacker on the team’s practice squad.

Suggs was one of the most dominant linebackers in the league and the acknowledged leader of the defense. Suggs, who has 106 1/2 career sacks, tore his right Achilles in the spring of 2012 and missed only six games.

At age 32, there is some speculation Suggs might have played his last game.

“I’ll say this about Terrell Suggs: you try to define why things happen,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Here’s a tough, tough break for a guy who’s done nothing but work above and beyond to a degree — at least as hard as he’s worked his whole career, but I’d say more — and prepare himself and be the kind of leader that you just admire so much.”

Suggs’ injury is not only a physical blow to the team’s playoff chances, it is also a personal challenge for his teammates.

“You can never replace a Terrell Suggs, a big emotional leader for our team,” Dumervil said. “It hurts everybody, whenever you hear news like that. We hope him a speedy recovery and get through it.”

The Ravens face a daunting start to their season, playing five of their first seven games on the road. Compounding the challenge is that four of the five road games are on the West Coast.

The other game is a Thursday night matchup at conference rival Pittsburgh on a short week. Baltimore must try to avoid going 0-2 as it travels to Oakland following a 19-13 loss to Denver in Week 1.

The good news for the Ravens is that the Steelers and Browns also lost their openers. The Bengals, who won the AFC North last season, dismantled the Raiders on the road.

Harbaugh does not expect to find any sympathy for his team’s arduous schedule.

“Our opponents are looking and our enemies are looking very favorably upon our challenges, and they’re hoping that our challenges will bring us down,” Harbaugh said. “We have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Nonetheless, the challenge became even harder Sunday with the loss of Suggs. The Ravens will now have to be road warriors without their leader.

“We’ve got to be professionals and just go out and play,” said running back Justin Forsett, who was held to 43 yards on 14 carries. “It’s going to be a long season and we’ve got to go out and try to win next week in Oakland. It’s going to be another tough battle.”

REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS

PASSING OFFENSE: D — Quarterback Joe Flacco was under pressure much of the game and struggled mightily. He was 18-of-32 for 117 yards and threw two costly interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Aqib Talib. Flacco’s quarterback rating was 38.2. Marlon Brown was the leading receiver with two catches for 25 yards. “We really didn’t do anything the whole game,” Flacco said. “We have to go back and look and see kind of what it was.” Tight end Crockett Gillmore and receiver Steve Smith Sr. also could not come down with potentially game-winning touchdowns in the final minute.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D — Baltimore failed to establish its running game, which helped lead to the offense’s overall struggles. Starter Justin Forsett was held to 43 yards on 14 carries and he struggled with his blocking. Overall the Ravens ran for only 73 total yards. “We’ve got to be professionals and just go out and play. It’s going to be a long season and we’ve got to go out and try to win next week in Oakland. It’s going to be another tough battle,” Forsett said. “They have an athletic defense. We just have to go back to the drawing board.”

PASS DEFENSE: A — The Ravens revamped secondary contained Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who was 24-of-40 for 175 yards and interception to Jimmy Smith, who returned it for a touchdown. Manning had a quarterback rating for 59.9. The Ravens also kept receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas out of the end zone. “I think we came into this game with a lot of confidence, but going out there and performing well against Peyton Manning keeps it there,” Smith said. Manning was sacked four times

RUSH DEFENSE: A — Baltimore’s stout run defense dominated again. Tackle Brandon Williams led the way with seven tackles. The Broncos rushed for only 69 yards. The Ravens haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 straight games, best in the NFL.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — This unit covered effectively and did not allow any big plays on kick returns. Justin Tucker made both of his field goal attempts, including one from 52 yards. Punter Sam Koch averaged 51.7 yards on six attempts. Steve Smith Sr. returned two punts for 32 yards.

COACHING: C-plus — Defensive coordinator Dean Pees put together an effective game plan to contain quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the Broncos offense. The Ravens’ offense, however, struggled most of the afternoon. Still, Baltimore performed admirably in a hostile environment and could have come away with a huge victory.


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