Ravens' defense punishes Sanchez in winning effort By Aaron Wilson
BALTIMORE -- Pained expressions flashed across the face of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez as the relentless Baltimore Ravens defense punished him repeatedly.
It was probably equal parts the hurt his body endured and frustration from his frequent miscues.
Victimizing Sanchez with unpredictable blitzes and constant pressure, the Ravens scored three defensive touchdowns to establish a new franchise record during a 34-17 victory Sunday night before 71,247 at M&T Bank Stadium.
It was a performance that rivaled the gold standard of the Ravens' defensive heyday during the decade Jets coach Rex Ryan spent in Baltimore as a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
"He created us, now he had to deal with us," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "It was fun. .. Obviously, he's upset. Rex is a super-competitive guy."
If it wasn't dynamic free safety Ed Reed stripping the ball away from Sanchez from behind on the Jets' first play from scrimmage, it was All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata drilling the beleaguered quarterback in the back with a crushing blow to force another fumble returned for a touchdown.
"We just pinned our ears back, and tried to get to him as fast as we could," Ngata said. "I think we rattled him, and got him off his mark and we were able to make plays off of him."
And cornerback Lardarius Webb delivered another embarrassing moment for Sanchez as he burst in front of an errant pass intended for wide receiver Santonio Holmes, returning the interception 73 yards for a touchdown.
The Ravens (3-1) won their seventh consecutive game against the Jets, their second in two games against Ryan and are now stand alone atop the AFC North heading into a bye week. Their defense has led the charge with 14 turnovers and four touchdowns through four games.
Sanchez fumbled four times, losing three of them.
"I do sense something special with this defense and with this team," coach John Harbaugh said. "I think there's a spirit in this team that's hard to describe and I wish I could put it in words for you.
"I saw it the first day the guys came back. We'll see where it takes us, but I couldn't me more proud of this team. You either do or you don't, and those guys did it tonight."
Instead of the Jets claiming a grudge match to avenge a 10-9 loss to the Ravens a year ago, they were humbled again as Ryan and former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason, strong safety Jim Leonhard and linebacker Bart Scott lost in their first regular-season game in Baltimore since leaving the organization.
"I've been around football a long time and I've never seen anything like that before," Ryan said. "The performance by their defense was spectacular. They were coming after us. That's that Raven defense. It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses. We got it handed to us."
Sanchez was limited to 11-of-35 passing for 115 yards, no touchdowns and one interception for a 30.5 passer rating.
To a man, the Ravens said that Sanchez appeared to get rattled.
"He hit the ground pretty quick a few times, and you could tell he was feeling the pressure," Johnson said. "When we see that, we're going to keep coming."
"Throughout the course of the beating, he got rattled a little bit," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Once we hit him a few times, he kind of got uncomfortable."
The Ravens needed all of their defensive prowess with quarterback Joe Flacco almost as erratic as Sanchez.
Flacco completed only 10 of 31 passes for 163 yards, no touchdowns and one interception for a 37.4 passer rating.
Flacco uncorked 12 consecutive incompletions from the beginning of the second quarter until early in the fourth quarter, when he finally hit rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams for a first down.
He had an interception returned 35 yards for a touchdown by inside linebacker David Harris in the second quarter on a short pass intended for running back Ray Rice. Flacco went two entire quarters without a completion.
It was a troubling game by Flacco one week removed from taking advantage of a suspect St. Louis Rams secondary for three touchdown passes and a career-high 389 yards in a 37-7 rout.
"It wasn't too pretty, but anytime you get a win in the NFL, it's a good one especially when you are playing a good team like that," Flacco said. "Our defense really showed up."
The enduring image of Ryan was him cursing at officials after they upheld Johnson's touchdown in the second quarter following an instant-replay review.
Ngata struck Sanchez in the back after busting through the Jets' blockers as if they were made of wet paper, popping the football out before the quarterback's arm started moving forward.
And Johnson scooped up the fumble and returned it 26 yards for the score.
"No, I didn't feel rattled at all," Sanchez said. "Just needed to get the ball out quicker."
The Ravens held the Jets to nine yards and one first down in the first quarter.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano sent Reed on a blitz in the first quarter, something the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has done less frequently in recent years due to neck and hip injuries.
Reed timed it perfectly, darting past the line of scrimmage to knock the ball away from Sanchez with inside linebacker Jameel McClain returning it six yards for a touchdown.
The Jets failed to account for Reed on the play, a crucial mistake.
"It was big," Reed said. "We must have caught them off-guard. I knew from watching him on tape that he would pump it and sometimes hold onto it. It was a blessing that I got there in time."
The Jets immediately answered with a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Joe McKnight where he streaked up the middle past blocked linebacker Albert McClellan and ran away from safety Tom Zbikowski. It's the longest return in Jets history and the longest play surrendered by the Ravens in franchise history.
Following a 38-yard Billy Cundiff field goal set up by a 52-yard reception by Rice where he lined up in the slot and beat safety Eric Smith, the Ravens scored on their next possession as well.
Rice capped an eight-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run to the left to stake the Ravens to a 17-7 advantage.
After yet another Sanchez fumble, this one a bad snap from rookie center Colin Baxter as he struggled in place of injured Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, Cundiff hit his first field goal.
The Jets scored one more time in the second quarter on a 40-yard Nick Folk field goal to bring the game to within 10 points at halftime.
However, the Ravens took control for good in the third quarter when Webb ran in front of Holmes to pick off Sanchez for the touchdown.
The Ravens contained Holmes, who had typically haunted the Ravens with 35 career receptions for 641 yards and eight touchdowns during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That included scores in seven consecutive games against them until Sunday night after not playing against the Ravens a year ago while serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.
The Ravens limited Holmes to three receptions for 33 yards.
The Ravens limited the Jets to 150 yards of total offense and seven first downs as New York rushed for just 38 yards on 19 carries for a two-yard average, the lowest since Ryan took over the AFC East squad.
It was the ninth-fewest yards allowed in franchise history, the lowest amount of yards any of Ryan's teams have gained.
"It was old school," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We started out the year kind of hot like this, got back on the track last week against St. Louis and this week we kind of came out and carried it over. It was a pretty good all-around win."
Like vintage editions of the Ravens, the defense and the running game led the way.
After halftime, the Jets generated only two first downs.
"It was an unbelievable game," Harbaugh said. "The best defensive performance I've ever seen, and the most amazing defensive performance I thought I'd seen was the Pittsburgh game with the seven turnovers against that offense, but this topped it. That's pretty impressive. It was a team victory, but our defense carried us."
Ravens notebook: Reshuffled secondary gets job done
BALTIMORE – Shorthanded at cornerback again due to mounting injuries, the Baltimore Ravens had to get creative in the secondary Sunday night against the New York Jets
With nickel cornerback Chris Carr sidelined with a recurring left hamstring injury aggravated in practice late in the week, the Ravens started Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams at cornerback.
They used All-Pro free safety Ed Reed in the nickel package.
And defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano lined up Bernard Pollard at strong safety with usual starting strong safety Tom Zbikowki working in the nickel package They also used cornerback Danny Gorrer in substitution packages.
It was an effective gambit as Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez completed only 11 of 35 passes for 119 yards, no touchdowns as Webb returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown .He finished with a 30.5 passer rating.
"I think it's pretty impressive with the fact that we had seven inactive guys who were all hurt," coach John Harbaugh said. "To be able to run those guys into packages who really hadn't been in those packages before, haven't had a chance to play as much, I think that speaks to those guys and it speaks to our coaches and the job they did getting those guys ready."
Carr has been bothered by the hamstring injury suffered early in training camp after signing a four-year, $14 million contract that included a $3.8 million signing bonus.
The Ravens placed cornerback Domonique Foxworth on injured reserve last week due to a slow recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last year.
The Ravens were also playing without rookie first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith due to a left high ankle sprain. Smith is out indefinitely and is hopeful of playing after the Ravens' bye week against the Houston Texans.
Gorrer finished with one pass deflection, and he drew praise from Harbaugh.
"Danny played really well," Harbaugh said. "We asked Danny to play great technique, that's what Danny does. He's become a fundamentally excellent corner over the last year, and he can run and he has good ball skills. He's going to be a really good corner. I think that this was kind of his opening salvo of his career."
Promoted from the practice squad prior to the Ravens' loss to the Tennessee Titans game, Gorrer stepped up in a key situation.
"It's just a blessing," Gorrer said. My number was called and I went out and played well. It was a real big game for us. I knew I would get some action and I took advantage of it.
"That's what it's about, getting the coaches and team's trust in me. I feel like I can do anything. It was about not letting people down. It was very important. I think I took advantage of it."
Meanwhile, left offensive guard Ben Grubbs missed his third consecutive game due to a right turf toe injury.
Grubbs practiced Thursday last week on a limited basis, but was unable to practice the following day. Grubbs had said he would be a game-time decision.
The Ravens started Andre Gurode in his place for the second week in a row.
"I've been giving it rest, so I'm going to continue the course and let it do its work," Grubbs said. "It's taking its time, but it's getting better. The swelling is going down, so that's a good sign, but it's slow healing. It's coming along."
Grubbs said he wasn't able to play.
"No, if I could've went, I would have, but I knew I wasn't able to help my team out," Grubbs said. "The last thing I want to do is hurt them."
The Ravens also deactivated wide receiver David Reed (left shoulder), safety Haruki Nakamura (sprained right posterior cruciate ligament), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (left hamstring) and wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle).
Rookie second-round draft pick Torrey Smith started again with Evans sidelined.
Evans is optimistic that he'll be able to return after the bye week.
KINDLE DEBUT: Out for his entire rookie season with a fractured skull, linebacker Sergio Kindle was active for the first time in an NFL regular-season game.
Kindle had been inactive for each of the first three games.
Kindle spent his rookie season on injured reserve after being drafted in the second round and suffering damage to his skull and experiencing hearing loss in his left ear.
Against the Jets, the former University of Texans star covered kickoffs and rushed the passer a few times as he finished with no tackles.
"It's just a blessing to be active, to finally get some wear and tear on my cleats besides the practice facility," Kindle said. "I got my feet wet, that's what matters. I waited a long time for this. I would say it was emotional.
"I was excited, anxious, jittery, but just happy because it's been a long, long time. I waited for this day for a long time and now it finally got here."
Just a week ago, Harbaugh had suggested that Kindle needed to improve to get his shot.
"I say work hard and get better," Harbaugh said. "If you're not dressing, it's because you're not good enough yet. That's a fact. I hate to say it that way, but the fact is, there are better players right now.
"Sergio is young, he's talented, he works hard and he wants to be a good player. So, his challenge is that, when his opportunity comes, he needs to be ready. That's what he's working for right now. It could be this week. It could be five weeks. It could be 10 weeks. We really don't know."
ROUGH NIGHT: The Jets briefly replaced undrafted rookie center Colin Baxter in the second quarter after he had issues snapping to quarterback Mark Sanchez, sliding over left offensive guard Matt Slauson.
Baxter wound up returning to play at center later in the quarter.
There was an issue with an exchange between Sanchez and Baxter and an errant snap that was recovered by Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger.
"He wasn't ready for this," Ravens nose guard Terrence Cody said. "We knew he was the weak link on the line. We tried to attack him."
Baxter was playing because Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold was out again with a high ankle sprain.
The Jets inserted Vlad Ducasse at offensive guard in place of Slauson.
MOMENT OF SILENCE: The Ravens observed a moment of silence before kickoff to honor the memory of the late Baltimore offensive tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown.
The 6-foot-7, 380-pounder was found dead late last month at his Baltimore apartment of unknown causes.
He died at age 40 and is survived by three sons.
"God, it's such a tragedy," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "He's a young man; he's 40 years old. You know, he's got children. He is just such a great guy. As soon as you mention his name, you get a smile on his face. You know, he's a tough guy and everything else, but he was a sweetheart.
"He cared dearly for his teammates, loved to play the game. I think anyone who knows Orlando Brown knows that this world lost a great person. I'm certainly going to miss him."
Brown was known for his intensity on the field and for being a strong leader in the locker room, and a good friend to many.
"That was a tough one," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "It almost brought me to my knees thinking about a 40-year-old guy that loved life so much, loved his kids. I wasn't just a teammate of ‘Zeus,' I was a friend of ‘Zeus.' We spent time when I was there, off the field, and we always shared words of advice.
"I think it just caught everybody by surprise. He'll be greatly missed, and I think it's a big void in a lot of people's lives, because not only was he a great football player, but he was a great person. Just a big teddy bear. He'll be sorely missed forever."
KRUGER, MASON SCRAP: There was a brief shoving match between defensive end Paul Kruger and former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason in the third quarter.
Following a Mason reception, Kruger tackled him shy of the first-down marker on third down.
And that was followed by Kruger and Mason mixing it up.
Apparently, there were no hard feelings.
"It's football," Mason said. "I wish I had the opportunity to talk to him afterwards and ask him why he did that. I am only 150 pounds, and he is about 300 and he pushed me at the end. It's football, and I like it that way.
"He's a good guy. I don't take it personally. What happens between the lines stays between the lines. When it's over with, they are back to being buddies again."
INJURY UPDATE: Strong safety Tom Zbikowski left the game with a concussion and didn't return.
QUICK HITS: The Ravens' game captains were punter Sam Koch, safety Ed Reed and offensive guard Marshal Yanda.
The Jets' game captains were all former Ravens: wide receiver Derrick Mason, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard. … The Jets' other inactives were quarterback Kevin O'Connell, wide receiver Logan Payne, safety Emanuel Cook, running back Bilal Powell, fullback-tight end Josh Baker, center Nick Mangold (high-ankle sprain) and defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis.
… Country music star Martina McBride sang the national anthem. … Rookie kick returner LaQuan Williams fumbled the opening kickoff, but it was recovered by special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo. Williams had issues against the St. Louis Rams reading blocks. "I thought LaQuan the first opportunity we had, he ran it exactly the way we wanted it run," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "He set it up well and he burst to the outside. We wish he had read the last block a little bit better. All and all, I thought it was a really positive start. He actually asked some good questions about that and we were able to answer. So, it was a real positive experience in the end." … Jets linebacker Garrett McIntyre left the game with a concussion and Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas left with an ankle injury and didn't retur
BALTIMORE RAVENS' REPORT CARD
Joe Flacco was erratic, error-prone and made bad decisions. It was one of the worst games of his NFL career, and it wasn't just because of the smothering presence of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis in the secondary. Flacco just played an awful game, completing only 10 of 31 passes for 163 yards and one interception returned for a touchdown, finishing with a 37.4 passer rating. The saving grace for Flacco was a strong defense. At one point, he threw 12 consecutive incompletions.
Running back: B-minus
Ray Rice's statistics weren't impressive except for his 52-yard reception, but he grinded out some critical yards in the third quarter to help put the game away. Rice is an all-around threat. Ricky Williams rushed for 49 yards, but also lost a fumble. All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach's lead blocking was superb.
Tight end Ed Dickson dropped passes. He was targeted a dozen times, catching just four passes for 45 yards. There was little separation from the receivers overall. The best receiver for the night was Ray Rice. Anquan Boldin caught one pass for 28 yards and was on lockdown most of the game as cornerback Darrelle Revis clamped down on him. Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith had one catch for one yard one week after catching three touchdown passes. Joe Flacco was off-target on an end-zone pass to Smith.
Offensive line: C-plus
Their pass blocking wasn't superb, but they did manhandle feisty linebacker Bart Scott when they had to. Joe Flacco was only sacked twice. It looked like right offensive tackle Michael Oher had a rough game overall.
Defensive line: B-plus
All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata forced a Mark Sanchez fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Ngata is having a dominant season. The Jets couldn't handle the inside charge of nose guard Terrence Cody. Defensive end Cory Redding had a strong game..
All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis and Co. shut down running backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, rendering them irrelevant to the outcome of the game. Lewis Jarret Johnson scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, as did inside linebacker Jameel McClain. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs provided a lot of pressure on Sanchez.
All-Pro free safety Ed Reed forced a fumble on a sack of Mark Sanchez that was returned for a score. Lardarius Webb returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown. They prevented Santonio Holmes from becoming a factor. He's traditionally extremely dangerous against Baltimore. Sanchez completed only 11 of 35 passes for 119 yards for a 30.5 passer rating.
Special teams: C-minus
Kicker Billy Cundiff was accurate, connecting on a pair of 38-yard field goals. The Ravens allowed a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest play against Baltimore in franchise history. Sam Koch averaged 44.3 yards per punt.
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