Ravens looking to shore up tackling

OWINGS MILLS -- With his helmet pointed down instead of looking up to see what he was hitting, Baltimore Ravens strong safety Dawan Landry wasn't squared up in position for a form tackle. He wound up missing the tackle altogether.

A diving tackle attempt by Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington was similarly unsuccessful during a 37-34 overtime win against the Buffalo Bills with wide receiver Lee Evans scampering away from a flailing Washington for one of his three touchdown catches.

It was yet another uncharacteristic fundamental breakdown defensively for the Ravens. Allowing 506 yards of total offense and four touchdown passes, the Ravens fell from third in the NFL in total defense to ninth overall in the league.

"We didn't tackle well in the secondary, and I don't think we tackled really well at all in the game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That was probably the biggest factor. There were probably eight plays that went for big yards that could have been controlled with better tackling, so that was disappointing and surprising." The Ravens are banking on this being an aberration, not the norm. For the most part, the secondary had held up well all season.

However, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shredded them for a season-high 374 passing yards and became the first quarterback since Peyton Manning three years ago to throw four touchdowns against Baltimore.

"Consistency is the name of the game," cornerback Chris Carr said. "It's kind of like we've been tackling very well and we've been covering well this whole season, so we just don't want a pattern of this. It's one of those things that's glaring on film that you know you need to correct. So, hopefully, we come back and we'll correct those mistakes."

The Ravens (5-2) are in a bye this week and players have the next five days off.

NFL teams don't hit in practice during the regular season so as to avoid injuries.

So, coaches have players run as fast as possible to the ball carrier and get in position to make the hit without taking the player down to the ground.

"The best way you do it is in practice," Harbaugh said. "You emphasize team tackling and pursuit. You emphasize proper angles to the football. We try to practice really fast. "If we get them in position to make those tackles, emphasize tackling high as opposed to tackling low, we'll be in good shape. We have a good tackling defense, so I feel confident that we'll be a good tackling defense the rest of the way."

All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis leads the Ravens in tackles and isn't accustomed to seeing so many missed stops. It was a slow burn for the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday as he led the Ravens with 15 tackles.

"I think it's simple, and it's more of an emphasis when it's the secondary, because when you miss a tackle then the big play is the big play," Lewis said. "Those little dinks and dunks happen all the time in the front seven, but it's just exposed more when a corner misses a tackle and he breaks for 30 or 40 yards. "Bottom line is, turn him inside, make the play and just hold him up and just slow him down. That's the way we've always played defense. It's a very simple process, actually." The Ravens wound up benching Washington in the fourth quarter because he was struggling so mightily in coverage and tackling in the open field.

He was replaced by Josh Wilson. Lewis anticipates a strong return from Washington following the bye week. "Anybody that plays on our defense, I expect to bounce back," Lewis said. "The bottom line is some things are rough. If somebody just beats you, beats you, beats you. Fabian can tell you himself. His face speaks for itself. Bottom line: stay in front of him, make the tackle. Simple game."

Washington emphasized that he hasn't lost confidence in himself after such a bad game. Teammates felt the need to offer some encouragement to him against the Bills. "Initially, after the first touchdown, I'm just like, ‘We love you. Don't worry about it. It's the next play,'" Carr said. "Fabian just has a very good spirit. It's kind of hard to explain unless you're around him, but we know he's going to bounce back from this and he's going to play well for us. He's been playing excellent this whole entire season. As a cornerback, those games happen sometimes. I've talked to him.

"I know Fabian. I've been around him a long time, so it's not like I feel like I really have to talk to him. I know he's not really going to go in the tank. He's going to shake this off, and he's going to be fine. He knows that we're not disappointed with him. He knows that it could happen to any of us. He knows that he wants to get better and go out there and play well, so we fully expect him to play well all season. That was just one of those games."



NOTES: Quarterback Joe Flacco has been nominated for FedEx's Air Player of the Week. He completed 16 of 31 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns against the Bills. Voting is available for fans on NFL.com. Flacco is competing against Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Moore and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan

. ... The Ravens were 3-3 heading into their bye last year after a three-game losing streak. This year, they've won four of their past five games. "We're right in the thick of things," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "We're right at the top, so we're still in a position to achieve all the goals that we set out at the beginning of the season."

... The Ravens' bye comes at a good time in terms of getting injuries with safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised heel), wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (broken foot), linebacker Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder) all expected to possibly return in time for a Nov. 7 game against the Miami Dolphins. Tight end Todd Heap (right shoulder stinger) is also banged-up. "I think it comes at a good time," Lewis said. "You get really all of your pieces back now. To go through the stretch that we went through and now to be sitting at 5-2, completely healthy, you can't ask for anything more." The Ravens play five of their final nine regular-season games at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is 3-0 at home this season. "As long as we keep that up, then I think we're going to put ourselves in a good spot to continue to be successful," Flacco said. "I think we're feeling pretty confident about where we are."

... Lewis said he has been impressed with injured rookie outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, who's out for the season on the reserve-non-football injury list after fracturing his skull in late July when he fell down two flights of stairs. "I think when you do watch Sergio, what you do [notice] is he really misses it, like he really wants to be out there," Lewis said. "He was even out there messing around wanting to practice, wanting to do walkthroughs, wanting to do all these things. I always try to encourage him with some type of just a good word, a good vibe, telling him, ‘Everything happens for a reason. Trust me when I tell you that.' And I think he gets it. He gets it as a young kid. Hopefully, he can come back and play. Hopefully, that head injury goes away and that young kid can come back and play, because he's a great talent. Great talent."


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