Ravens' secondary looking to rebound from mistakes

OWINGS MILLS - Between the culprits, nature of the mistakes and time of year, the Baltimore Ravens' defense was hit with a severe case of déjà vu. <br><br> A 20-3 loss Sunday to the Cleveland Browns closely mirrors how the Ravens were shredded by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox to open last season. <br><br> The Ravens allowed a pair of long passes to quarterback Jeff Garcia, including a 46-yard touchdown to Quincy Morgan behind gambling safety Ed Reed.

Against Pittsburgh last season, the Ravens surrendered 260 passing yards and two touchdown passes. Communication seemed to be the chief issue both times. 

Now, the Ravens are employing another corrections policy heading into the home opener against the Steelers. 

"If we carry out the details of our assignments throughout the play, things will be good," secondary coach Johnnie Lynn said Tuesday. "If you don't do your responsibilities, then you have a chance of things being bad, which happened to us during the game. You can't allow those things to happen. You have to secure the deep ball." 

Morgan's 46-yard touchdown occurred when Reed appeared to bite on a Garcia pump fake. Factoring in Andre Davis' 51-yard catch behind safety Will Demps accounts for 97 of Garcia's 180 passing yards. 

Davis would have likely scored if he hadn't lost his balance, but his reception set up a 25-yard field goal. Rookie tight end Kellen Winslow added a 21-yard completion. 

Both Demps and Reed didn't offer much in the way of explanations afterward. "I've got a bad memory," Reed said. "I don't know what happened. They scored. None of us are perfect. The Lord was the only perfect one to walk this earth. We're going to make mistakes and they capitalized on those mistakes." 

A limited amount of collaboration time during the preseason may have contributed to the breakdowns. 

Nickel back Deion Sanders was playing in his first game after joining the team a few days before the preseason finale. And cornerback Chris McAlister, the team's franchise player, skipped the entire training camp because of a contract dispute. 

"Some of it was familiarity in the fact that Chris was late to camp and Deion is new to us," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There were some communication errors that you hope do not occur later on. There were a couple of instances where they probably tried to do too much. There were three big plays, and you can't dismiss the yardage that they got. Aside from those errors, the defense had a great day. The next step clearly is for that group to communicate better and not leave themselves vulnerable by not knowing where everyone else is on the field." 

The Steelers have gone back to their running roots, but still feature accomplished receivers with a track record of success against Baltimore in Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randel El.

In last season's 34-15 win over Baltimore, Ward caught nine passes for 91 yards with Burress finishing with six receptions for 116 yards. 

"Big-time talent, big-time receivers," Lynn said. "They catch the ball well and run after the catch. They block. They're physical. It's a big challenge." 

Talent isn't the issue for Baltimore, which had the sixth-ranked pass defense last season. Including Sanders' seven Pro Bowl selections and 48 career interceptions, the Ravens' top five defensive backs have a total of nine Pro Bowl appearances and 78 interceptions. 

"You don't want to start like this, but it will right itself," Lynn said. "Still, we have to be able to communicate and talk and be on the same page. We've got that out of our system. We're not going to allow those things that happened to us a week ago to creep into this week." 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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