Ravens Notebook

As far as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is concerned, the Baltimore Ravens' epic collapse against the Houston Texans can be chalked up to challenging matchups triggered by safety Tom Zbikowski leaving the game with a back injury. Zbikowski was the Ravens' designated dime back.

Zbikowski was the Ravens' designated dime back. With him out of the game, the Ravens had to use linebackers to cover Texans tight end Owen Daniels. And he finished with five receptions for 91 yards even though he dropped several passes. The Ravens squandered a 28-7 lead in the second half, but managed to win 34-28 in overtime as cornerback Josh Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown.

"Affected a great deal of what we called because he was our dime in that game and we didn't feel like you could put a linebacker on Owen Daniels," Mattison said. "That was evident as the game went on when we did try to play some man against him. You've got a total mismatch right there on one of the better tight ends in the league." The Ravens got very little pressure on quarterback Matt Schaub, too. They had nose guards Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney and Kelly Gregg to try to stop running back Arian Foster, but there wasn't much of a pass rush. Foster still rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries. "We had three nose guard type guys up to play the run, they were rushing for 130 yards," Mattison said. "All of a sudden when they went into a passing fest and you lose one of your pass rushers our choice was to try to rush two nose guards or even three nose guards and one end and try to pressure when the secondary was already running a number of routes with them. "We thought our best deal was to be able to rush three at times and to rush four and try to make sure that we didn't give them a big play because the worst thing that could happen to us at that point is for them to score fast." Plus, the defense got tired in the second half. With the Texans throwing so much and the Ravens offense struggling to move the football, the defense got exhausted.

"I think the biggest thing was one, anytime you get into a passing game, it's so much more taxing on the defensive line than it is a run game," Mattison said. "There still was a lot of things left on that Pittsburgh game field. That defense, and that front seven laid it out in that game and played their hearts out. And then to come back and change to a game that switched into being pass, pass, pass, it doesn't hit you before it hits you. "You'd like to have pressured at times, but just my feeling, the only thing I ever care about in calling defenses is what's best for the defense. The thing that I didn't want to have happen is for something to happen in a single-coverage defense and them to get a big play, and now, all of a sudden, you may be back there a lot faster than you want with a lot of clock left." Zbikowski could be out this week against the New Orleans Saints prolific offense. So, the Ravens could be in a similar quandary.

"I think the one thing we've got to have, we've got to make sure we have a couple guys that can play that one position so it doesn't take us out of defense, so you don't get taken out of that," Mattison said. "We've got to be able to roll guys through there maybe earlier, thinking that, ‘OK, this could happen.' It's hard to do that. In other places I've been, I've done that all the time. "Our mindset was to stop the run, and our mindset was the bigger guys up there. I don't think that would've mattered. I looked out there one time, and I see Terrence Cody and Brandon McKinney, and I'm thinking, ‘Wow, we're not going to get much pressure with this one.'"



INJURY UPDATES: Tight end Todd Heap didn't practice for the second day in a row due to a pulled right hamstring and is expected to miss his second consecutive game. Fullback Le'Ron McClain was added to the injury report with an illness and wrote on his Twitter account that his stomach was killing him. Zbikowski (back) didn't practice again as well as wide receiver Derrick Mason (ankle). Mason said he'll definitely play Sunday against the Saints. He said he injured his ankle when he dropped a pass against the Texans and the cornerback fell on his ankle, missing a few plays. Mason said he'd like to practice today. "I would love a day of practice, I would love to at least get my legs going," Mason said. "If I had to go a week without practicing, I don't think it would hurt me or hurt the offense. I think I know what I'm doing by now. I would love to get a practice in just to get my legs going and everything."

Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden (calf) and cornerback Fabian Washington (left hamstring) participated fully. Not practicing for the Saints: defensive end Anthony Hargrove (knee), running back Chris Ivory (hamstring), wide receiver Courtney Roby (concussion) and tight end David Thomas (concussion). Defensive tackle Remi Ayodele (ankle) was limited as well as offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Vilma (quadriceps). Safety Malcolm Jenkins (rib), cornerback Tracy Porter (shoulder), tight end Jeremy Shockey (groin) and offensive tackle Zach Strief (knee) participated fully. FLACCO NOT CONCERNED: Although quarterback Joe Flacco has been sacked 13 times in the past three games, he didn't express concern about the Ravens' pass protection. "I can tell you that every game I go into that I feel confident that I'm going to be protected," he said. "If I get hit every now and then, it's part of the game." The Saints have recorded 26 sacks, ranking 16th in the league.

"You never want to go into a game and let up sacks," Flacco said. "It can be a mixture of things. It can be me, it can be the offensive line, it can be the running backs. It can be all of us. We work on correcting on those things. "When we come out to practice, we're focused on our next opponent and getting the job done right. We're going to have confidence going into the game no matter how many sacks we gave up the week before that we're going to get the job done right this week." The Ravens allowed a sack to Texans strong safety Bernard Pollard that looked awfully similar to how Flacco was blindsided by Troy Polamalu in the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This time, he fumbled and it was recovered. This time, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said that Flacco was aware that was taking a risk and that Pollard might go unblocked. "Two different protections, all right?" Cameron said. "Joe comes off the field two plays later, because he threw a touchdown the next play. So, he comes off after throwing the touchdown and I said, ‘Joe?' He said, ‘I know, I knew he was unblocked, but I thought I could beat him.' "He's got an opportunity, he knows he's unblocked, and he's got a couple options. He thought he was going to be able to beat the blitz with the ball, which we all do to some degree, and he said where he was going with the ball got hung up and he held it just a count and got hit. And you've got to appreciate that. He knew exactly what the potential was that happened." The lack of pass protection, though, has become a trend. The Ravens have surrendered 32 sacks after allowing only five through the first five games. "Yeah, we've got to continue to get that solved, bottom line," Cameron said. "And sometimes, it was a single block, sometimes it was a combination block. At the end of the game, it was a combination block. There was nothing they did earth-shattering, scheme-wise, but there are some things we need to clean up technique-wise. "As you can see, Joe was getting the ball out. It wasn't a case of holding the ball. It's just a matter of sustaining blocks longer and getting the ball to come out." CORNHOLE CHAMPION: Ravens punter Sam Koch is more accurate than quarterback Joe Flacco, at least when it comes to cornhole. Koch swept Flacco in three games in the beanbag toss game that has become extremely popular in the locker room. Koch was the top seed.

"Here's the thing: Joe can throw it in front of them and behind them, and it's up to the receivers to get them," Koch said. "With a punter, I have an inch that I got to hit on my foot. It just comes with the territory." Koch said an undisclosed winning contribution could be coming his way. Koch led Flacco 12-0 to open the game, finishing the match 20-17. "Koch is that good, man," Flacco said. "I got to the finals, so I can't complain."



LINE SHUFFLE: Ravens coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal on whether the team will stick with its offensive line configuration of Oniel Cousins at right tackle, Marshal Yanda at right guard and guard Chris Chester at blocking tight end.

The Ravens allowed five sacks to the Texans and rushed for only 63 yards on 24 carries, averaging only 2.6 yards per carry.

"We're just going to try to keep doing the best we can to get guys out there," Harbaugh said. "We have some good players. What you try to do with players is you try to find a way to put them in a position where they can help you.

"We don't want to have guys on the team that aren't contributing. There are things we can do better in every part of our team, including the offensive line, so we try to mix and match and move guys around if we have to, to find the right combination to do the things we need to do to be successful."

Despite the mixed results, Cameron said he was encouraged by the prospects for the jumbo package. The Ravens did score a short-yardage touchdown on a Willis McGahee one-yard run.

"I thought it was a plus, on the goal line, it was a huge plus," Cameron said. "That was a big play in that game. We hadn't been in that goal-line look in a while. With Oniel in there, it gave us a chance to put another guy beside him where we can be physical."



STAYING ONSIDES: Offensive tackle Michael Oher has committed four penalties in the past two weeks. That includes three penalties against the Pittsburgh Steelers with two false starts and one holding penalty. He was flagged for another false start against the Texans. "I'll tell you exactly what it is: He's a quick-twitch guy," Cameron said. "He's got a gift of quickness, and we've just got to harness it a little bit and be a little more disciplined. He's trying to get it solved. We're trying to work with him.

"We mix our cadence up a lot. Sometimes on young tackles, it'd be easy for us to go on ‘one' all the time to help them out. That would make it a lot easier, but then what comes next? Now, they're getting off on our cadence. We mix really five different cadences in there at times. We've just got to continue to grow and continue to get better.



QUICK HITS: Thirteen games into the season, Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said the Ravens haven't played up to their full potential.

"That's a scary but great feeling," Rice said. "If you look at this team and say, Wow, this team hasn't played its best yet and they're sitting here at 9-4.' That's scary because you don't want it to come back and bite you in the behind. But, at the same time, you look at the upside and it's a team of destiny. There used to a question about the amount of talent we had here," he said. "If you look at the amount of talent level, I think we're top 5 in the league. We just have to put it together. We're making it interesting, but we're finding ways to win."

… Cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the first week of training camp and was placed on injured reserve, ran sprints inside the Ravens' indoor facility. Foxworth has said he's on track to participate in offseason minicamps. … The Ravens plan to wear their black jerseys Sunday night. They haven't announced if they'll wear their white or black pants.

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