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News » Miami Dolphins brace for physical and smart Ravens defense: Intellectual edge is what really makes a physical Ravens defense fie


Miami Dolphins brace for physical and smart Ravens defense: Intellectual edge is what really makes a physical Ravens defense fie


Miami Dolphins brace for physical and smart Ravens defense: Intellectual edge is what really makes a physical Ravens defense fie
Jan. 3--You think you know the Baltimore Ravens defense, don't you? Fast, swarming, with hitters you can't run on or from, right? A posse embodied by its fearsome leader, that loud, demonstrative hurricane of a University of Miami personality Ray Lewis. Get past his gang in the front seven and there's that other UM guy, master thief Ed Reed, who will be 100 yards away with his booty just as you see you've been robbed.


They're all that. Those who make their living dealing with the Ravens know what has made them a perennially top defense is they're so much more.

All defenses want to be known as "physical." Knock heads, knock you on your butt, domination and intimidation in its simplest form. Ask middle linebacker Lewis the personality of the Baltimore defense and he fires back, "Physical! We play very physical and we have a lot of interchangeable pieces."

The Ravens, however, are akin to a nose guard who rarely discusses his astrophysics acumen. Lewis and Reed maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of opposing offenses and tendencies. Their team's brilliance at being able to handle a hypercomplex defense doubling Baltimore's toughness. They can give quarterbacks and offensive linemen a headache from confusion as easily as by contusion.

Before the Ravens hit you, they con you.

Ravens TRICKERY

"It's a unique defense. They're No. 2 in the league for a reason," said Dolphins center Samson Satele, responsible for making the line calls and setting up pass protection along with quarterback Chad Pennington. "They do a great job of shifting and confusing an offense."

Up front, the Ravens might shift out of a basic 3-4 into something that allows, say, nose guard Haloti Ngata to play more like a defensive tackle or even drop into pass coverage. It's difficult enough to block the 6-4, 340-pound Ngata when you don't have to spend a second looking for him or making sure he really is your responsibility. Look no further for why the physical and mental play of Satele or backup Al Johnson could dictate just how far the Dolphins get against Baltimore.

"The fortunate thing for Samson -- and this is not taking anything away from Ngata, who is a tremendous player as well -- but in our division, we've had to play against some pretty good players there," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. 'He just comes off of playing against [the Jets' Kris] Jenkins and he's had to play against [New England's Vince] Wilfork and he's had to play against Buffalo's group there. These type of players he's had to play against a couple times apiece."

"It is a challenge with all that they do, defensively, because they are complicated, they do move the front, they do move around and try to confuse you so your center has got to get you lined up in some of those situations," Sparano continued. "It's something that he has to pay attention to and Chad has to pay attention to."

The Ravens' presnap movement in the secondary can confound even the best quarterbacks. NFL MVP Peyton Manning, generally considered the most intelligent among NFL quarterbacks, usually gets befuddled at least once per game against the Ravens into hitting a Baltimore defensive back right in the numbers.

CONSEQUENCES

"If you throw the ball in a poor location against this team, it's going to end up in somebody's hands back there," Sparano said. "The number of interceptions that they have is off the charts. Then, when they get it in their hands, those guys turn into kick returners and they can run them back for touchdowns."

Of course, one of Pennington's seven interceptions this season and one of the two returned for touchdowns came against Baltimore when the Ravens didn't fall for a play-action fake and blitzing safety Jim Leonhard got in Pennington's face. Terrell Suggs sniffed out Pennington's safety valve toss to Patrick Cobbs, picked it off and ran it back 44 yards to give Baltimore a 10-3 lead.

Usually, running interceptions and fumbles back for touchdowns is an Ed Reed thing. He has three touchdowns on returns this year and, against Philadelphia, broke his own NFL record with a 107-yard interception return.

"For our back end, he's a trooper back there," Lewis said of Reed. "He's the one that keeps everything together. If you don't have that general back there on your back end, things can get out of hand. . . . That's what makes him so important is that he keeps everybody on that back end playing at a high level so our front seven can just do what we do."

And they do it with as much mind as muscle.

To see more of The Miami Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.herald.com. Copyright (c) 2009, The Miami Herald Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 3, 2009

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