Ravens' secondary recovering from torching

OWINGS MILLS -- The firestorm in the Baltimore Ravens' shorthanded secondary has been extinguished after being scorched by Peyton Manning. Days removed from allowing four touchdown passes in a 44-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens are trying to learn from their mistakes and regroup in time for Sunday's game against the winless Miami Dolphins.

It's a fine line to walk between having a short memory regarding mental and physical breakdowns and not dwelling on them so much that confidence is lost. Of course, playing without starting cornerbacks and former Pro Bowl selections Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle has exacerbated the situation.

"It was a kick in the butt," Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said in a reference to how he has reacted this week in practice after Manning shredded his defensive backs. "No question, they'll learn from it. They've got no choice, they better.

"You can't make those kind of mistakes obviously against a quarterback like that. He doesn't need a whole lot. If you give him anything at all, he takes advantage of it. Hopefully, we learned our lesson and we'll play much better this week."

The Ravens (4-9) couldn't have covered much worse in losing their seventh consecutive game.

Manning completed 13 of 17 passes for 249 yards, no interceptions and a 157.5 quarterback rating, becoming only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw 300 touchdown passes.

His receivers averaged 17.2 yards per reception with rookie wideout Anthony Gonzalez catching six passes for 134 yards and the first two touchdowns of his NFL career.

Manning tormented reserve cornerback David Pittman, going after him on four of his first six passes, including a 34-yard touchdown to Reggie Wayne down the right sideline.

It was another rough outing for Pittman, who also struggled in a 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season.

During one exchange, Pittman bit on a fake and fell to his hands and knees, getting up to vainly chase Gonzalez on his 57-yard touchdown catch.

"I've just got to be more disciplined and do what I'm supposed to do on certain calls," Pittman said. "You definitely try to learn from your mistakes and you've got to have a short memory.

"You put it in the back of your mind and forget about them and act like it never really happened. I'm looking forward to another opportunity to make up for what happened last week. I'm really looking forward to that."

A former third-round draft pick out of Northwestern State (La.), Pittman didn't appear in any games as a rookie while drawing complaints from the coaching staff and scouts about his adjustment to the NF, including criticism of his work habits and concentration.

Although Pittman made strides during training camp, he has lacked consistency in five games this season. He registered two tackles and a pass deflection against the Colts.

"Well, he does have the physical tools," Ryan said. "That's why he was taken in the third round. We all see that. At times, you see it out here. Then, at other times, I think it's a lot to do with his confidence.

"You get confidence through playing, but you also get it through practicing and everything else. When you hit that practice field on that kind of mission to get better, you'll be surprised what happens. You see it all the time with guys, and David just needs to attack it that way."

The Ravens could be in a similar injury predicament against the Dolphins.

McAlister was placed on injured reserve with a strained knee that might require surgery earlier this week. Meanwhile, Rolle hasn't practiced all week due to a shoulder injury that could sideline him again.

That means that Corey Ivy and Derrick Martin are likely to start at cornerback with Pittman or Ronnie Prude filling in at nickel back.

At least the Dolphins don't have a formidable passing game. They have the 26th-ranked passing game, averaging 181.5 yards passing per contest with just eight touchdown passes this season. Former Baltimore quarterback Cleo Lemon will start over rookie John Beck, but Lemon has thrown just three touchdown passes with six interceptions and a 65.5 rating.

"Knowing that Chris will be down, you've got to prepare that much harder," Martin said. "You got to stay focused or bad things will happen. Stay level-headed throughout and you'll be all right. If we play our game, we should be all right."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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