Behind Enemy Lines: The Ravens

Is Ray Lewis still Ray Lewis? Can the Ravens' defense rush Aaron Rodgers? Has Joe Flacco hit a sophomore slump? Those answers and more as we go Behind Enemy Lines with Phil Backert of Fox Sports Radio in Baltimore.

We got Behind Enemy Lines with Phil Backert, producer of The Rob Long Show on Fox 1370 Sports Radio in Baltimore.


Bill: We all remember the great Ray Lewis from that Super Bowl team. How good is Lewis these days?

Phil: Ray Lewis is still the heart and soul of the Ravens. What he has lost in speed and agility, he makes up with knowledge. Lewis seems to always know what play is coming, and a perfect example of this was his Week 2 tackle in San Diego, when he broke before the ball was snapped and tackled Chargers running back Darren Sproles on fourth-and-2 for a 5-yard loss to secure the victory. Lewis still plays the run well, but he has become suspect in pass coverage. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison uses Lewis more as a blitzer to help offset his weaknesses.

Bill: The Packers' problems protecting the quarterback are practically legendary. Is Terrell Suggs going to play, and if not, where or how do the Ravens take advantage of the Packers' shortcomings, because if they can't, I think Aaron Rodgers picks apart the secondary.


LB Terrell Suggs
Larry French/Getty Images
Phil: Terrell Suggs has not practiced all week, and will probably be a game-time decision, but even that is being optimistic. For all the criticism about the lack of playmakers at wide receiver and a suspect secondary, the biggest weakness for Baltimore has been the pass rush this season. The Ravens' only have 21 sacks through 11 games. However, even with the lack of pass rush, the defense has still been effective. Not only does Baltimore rank 10th in the league by only giving up 308.9 yards per game, they also hold teams to 17.1 points per game, good for fourth in the NFL. Rookie Lardarius Webb continues to gain more playing time as a cornerback and has made an impact. Webb supports the run well and has been used as a blitzer, but more importantly, he has stabilized a weak secondary. The Ravens' defense will look to mirror what they did against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago; keep the Packers out of the end zone and force Rodgers into turnovers.

Bill: From the outside looking in, it looks like Joe Flacco hasn't taken the next step forward after a pretty fabulous rookie season. What are your impressions?

Phil: Joe Flacco started his sophomore campaign on fire. Not only did the Ravens jump out to a 3-0 record, but some were mentioning Flacco as an early season MVP candidate. Flacco threw six touchdowns and only had two interceptions while compiling 839 passing yards. However, since then, Flacco has thrown seven touchdowns with six interceptions. After throwing for more than 300 yards twice through the first three games, he has only done it once the last eight. Flacco hurt his ankle in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings, which has hindered his ability to move around the pocket and fully step into his throws. The coaching staff along with Flacco claim everything is fine, but after appearing to aggravate the injury in Sunday night's contest against Pittsburgh, one has to wonder if this injury will only heal with rest. With all that said, Flacco along with the Ravens' offense are slowly breaking out of their midseason funk. The second-year quarterback has thrown for more than 250 yards the last two games and the offense has tallied 354 yards and 393 yards, respectively.

Bill: Ravens coach John Harbaugh is a former special-teams coach, and the Packers' special teams are abysmal. Can you talk about your special teams, which I assume are pretty good?


DB Lardarius Webb
Larry French/Getty Images
Phil: The special teams have done well covering punts and kickoffs all season, but they have struggled returning punts. Returner Chris Carr was signed in the offseason to give the Ravens a boost, but the former Pro Bowl return man has struggled. Carr was averaging only 4.1 yards per punt return before Sunday night, but he was able to break off a couple of big returns that have helped his average improve to 6.5. That average is good for 23rd in the NFL. However, the real threat is the aforementioned Webb. Not only has Webb improved the secondary, but he has made a huge impact with his kickoff returns. Webb returned a second-half kickoff for 95 yards for a touchdown in Week 8 to help the Ravens hand the Denver Broncos their first loss. Webb has also been a force providing coverage on the kickoff team along with being a gunner on the punt team.

Bill: Is there a feeling that, at 6-5, this is a must-win game? And the record notwithstanding, this isn't a 6-5 team coming to town, is it? Just looking at the close losses, this looks like a real championship contender to me.

Phil: The Ravens are in a situation where they can't afford to lose. They are on the outside of the playoffs and need help if they want to make it. There are some who think a 9-7 team will earn a wild card in the AFC, but for Baltimore to feel comfortable, they must finish no worse than 10-6. With the hated Steelers still on the schedule, a game that will be played in Pittsburgh in late December, the Ravens have to find a way to win Monday night. The Ravens have only lost by a total of 13 points in four of their five losses, but championship-caliber teams find ways to win those games. Baltimore has not been able to do that, and until they do, it is hard to consider them true Super Bowl contenders. However, John Harbaugh's team needs this win as their playoff aspirations will take a serious hit with a loss. Rodgers and the Packers' offense will be able to move the ball against the defense, but the Ravens will hold them to field goals for most of the night. The Ravens finally win a close game and continue their goal to make the playoffs.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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