Ravens' pass defense falls to 26th in NFL

OWINGS MILLS -- The opposing quarterbacks delivering the spirals and their downfield targets change every week.   What has become a constant, though, is a barrage of yards and touchdowns generated at the expense of the Baltimore Ravens' downtrodden secondary.

Through five games, the Ravens (3-2) are allowing 238 passing yards per game to rank 26th overall out of 32 NFL teams in passing defense. They have given up six touchdown passes out of their nine defensive touchdowns allowed.

In a 17-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens surrendered 271 passing yards to Carson Palmer. That included his game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Now, the Ravens have to square off with the Minnesota Vikings and former NFL Most Valuable Player quarterback Brett Favre.

"We have got to stick to what got us here, go back and get better," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "It's not time to throw out the whole package based on what happened. I mean, it's important that we work hard and stay humble."

Against the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore gave up a season-high 436 yards as quarterback Philip Rivers put up a career-high for passing yardage.

Against the New England Patriots, the Ravens allowed Tom Brady to pass for 236 yards.

Against the Bengals with Foxworth covering Chad Ochocinco the majority of the time, he caught seven passes for 94 yards as he was targeted 10 times.

The touchdown to Caldwell came on coverage by Chris Carr, who said he was thrown to the ground by his facemask by the receiver

"It was unsettling," Foxworth said. "It doesn't feel good."

Foxworth, who signed a four-year, $27.2 million contract during the offseason that included $16.5 million in guaranteed money, also let Chris Henry get behind him on a 73-yard completion.

For the season, the Ravens' secondary has struggled against bigger receivers. As the designated top cornerback on the team who draws the assignment of the opposition's most dangerous receiver, Foxworth has been attacked more often than Fabian Washington.

As a defense, the Ravens are giving up eight yards per passing attempt with opposing quarterbacks completing 61 percent of their throws for 1,268 yards.

For the season, they're on pace to give up 4,057 yards and 19 touchdown passes.

"I think our coverage overall, even though we've had some plays against us, has been really good," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's been really aggressive. There's a penalty here, they make a play there, all of that stuff happens.

"But we're not changing the way we're playing. We're very aggressive in the coverage part of it. So, from a coaches' and players' perspective, we're good with that."

It's not all on the secondary's shoulders, though.

The pass rush hasn't created enough pressure with 11 sacks led by outside linebacker Jarret Johnson's four sacks. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who signed a $62.5 million contract has 2 1/2 sacks in five games.

The Ravens may need to employ more aggressive 3-4 schemes to harass quarterbacks.

So, what's the answer?

"We pass rush better," Harbaugh said. "Everybody does a better job. We do a better job of coaching, we do a better job of teaching technique, we do a better job of attacking the weaknesses of a protection or an individual pass protection guy, we do a better job of getting to the runners on pressures.

"All of the things that go into pass rush. Those are the things that you try to do better, and, to me, that's what's relevant. As we go forward here, that's what's relevant to us becoming the kind of football team that we're capable of being."

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