NFL Wire News

Ravens counting on secondary players in playoff chase

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — John Harbaugh has established himself as one of the top coaches in the NFL when it comes to late-season runs.

So, when he said the team’s playoff fate is “in our hands,” Baltimore is fully ready to embrace that opportunity.

With a home against last-place Jacksonville in Week 15, Baltimore can edge closer to that goal. The Ravens, however, will have to move forward with further key injuries to their already depleted secondary.

Cornerbacks Anthony Levine and Danny Gorrer both were knocked out of the Week 14 game against the Dolphins. Levine suffered a concussion in the first quarter, and his status is uncertain. Gorrer had to be carted off the field after suffering a knee injury in the fourth quarter and his season is over.

“We have a resilient bunch,” Harbaugh said. “They’re mentally tough. They don’t get caught up in the noise. They don’t get easily distracted. We say, ‘Turn neither to the left nor to the right — eyes straight ahead.’ We have a bunch of very mature men and some young guys that are heading in the right direction because of the mature guys around them that are leading them and showing them the way. So, the second part that you mentioned, to me, that’s it. That’s the key.”

Baltimore’s top corner, Jimmy Smith, is also out for the season with a knee injury. As of this week, the Ravens will move forward with Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson as the top two corners. Rashaan Melvin, who has not played since being signed on Nov. 8, will also get some reps, according to Harbaugh.

“It definitely increases snaps for Rashaan Melvin,” Harbaugh said. “That’s why he’s here, that’s why we picked him up. And he’s had a couple weeks of practice with us now, and he’s done a good job. So, I’m excited about him. You feel for Danny, and that gives me an opportunity to comment on Danny: Danny came in here and just did a heck of a job, and your heart goes out to him.”

The Ravens’ pass rush continued to be the strength of the team and has helped mask some of the problems with the secondary. Baltimore is sixth in the league with 37 sacks. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil is tied with Kansas City’s Justin Houston as the NFL’s sack leader, with 16.

Baltimore is even with Pittsburgh for second place in the AFC North at 8-5, a half-game behind the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens likely will have to win at least two of their final three games (Jacksonville, at Houston, Cleveland) to secure a spot in the postseason.

“I’m not an expert on those scenarios,” Dumervil said. “Now we come in front of our home crowd against Jacksonville, it’s another great opportunity for us. We’re excited, but it’s not over. We still have a few more games, and it starts with Jacksonville.”

Baltimore won its first game without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who was suspended last week for the rest of the regular season for violating the league’s ban on performance-enhancing substances. The Ravens also cut ties with starting running back Ray Rice for a domestic abuse incident and have managed a solid running game with Justin Forsett.

“I’m just happy with the way our guys are responding to everything,” Harbaugh said. “Our assistant coaches have done a tremendous job. I look at our guys and the way they’ve been developing guys.”

NOTES: OLB Elvis Dumervil finished with 3.5 sacks against Miami and set a franchise record with 16 sacks for the season. Dumervil broke the record of 15 set by Peter Boulware in 2001. … WR Torrey Smith entered the game with a sprained right knee and was held without a catch. It was uncertain Smith would even be available to play after missing two days of practice. However, Smith should be OK to play against Jacksonville.

REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 25 of 33 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 106.8. Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken combined for 13 catches and 135 yards and a touchdown apiece. It was a good day all around for the offense.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — Baltimore controlled the ground game with 183 yards on 31 carries. Justin Forsett led the way with 71 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Bernard Pierce ran for 50 yards on just three carries. The Ravens outrushed Miami 122 yards to six in the second half.

–PASS DEFENSE: B-minus — The Ravens lost a couple of key players in the secondary to injuries but managed to play effectively. Baltimore did not allow any big plays and kept the pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked six times and had to hurry several throws.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A — The run defense was stout even without suspended defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Baltimore allowed just 63 yards on 16 carries.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B — It was a slow day for special teams. Justin Tucker did not attempt a field goal. Sam Koch had four punts for 181 yards and Jacoby Jones was limited to two punt returns. There were no glaring mistakes and coverage was solid.

–COACHING: A — It was essentially a playoff game against the Dolphins, with the loser likely out of the postseason hunt. Baltimore responded with its fourth road win of the season. Coach John Harbaugh did not let the suspension of Haloti Ngata become a distraction. The offense, defense and special teams all played well. The Ravens also limited the number of foolish penalties, which have led to losses this season.


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