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News » There's no doubt which defense is better

There's no doubt which defense is better

There's no doubt which defense is better
BALTIMORE -- Captain James Farrior, linebacker Larry Foote and safety Ryan Clark are eloquent spokesmen for the NFL's supreme defense, but it was backup cornerback William Gay who best put into words the proud unit's philosophy for 31/2 fascinating hours on the M&T Bank Stadium turf yesterday.

"We want to defend each blade of grass."

So they did in the Steelers' 13-9 victory against the Baltimore Ravens. In the process, they didn't just help to secure the AFC North Division title and a first-round playoff bye, they put an end to one of the NFL's more interesting which-is-better debates: Steelers' defense or Ravens'?

Is there any doubt after the Steelers held the previously prolific Ravens' offense to three field goals, one coming after the Ravens recovered a fumble at the Pittsburgh 16?

Is there any doubt after the Ravens' defense couldn't stop the Steelers from going 92 yards on 12 plays for the winning touchdown with 43 seconds left?

"We'll let the final score do our talking," Farrior said.

It doesn't get any more eloquent than that.

Everyone is buzzing this morning about the winning drive led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Heck, that's all the Steelers' defensive players wanted to talk about after the game.

"It's no coincidence that the guy gets $102 million," Clark said of Roethlisberger. "You can't make a $100 million mistake."

Added Farrior, "That drive was beautiful to watch."

So was the defense.

Give me a 13-9 squeaker over a 41-38 shootout any Sunday.

This might be hard to believe because of all the pregame attention devoted to the two defenses, but the Ravens sent out the NFL's hottest offense. In their past eight games -- seven wins -- they had averaged almost 30 points, tops in the league during that time. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco had much to do with that with a sweet 95.6 passer rating, thanks to 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

But Ravens coach John Harbaugh clearly wanted to take pressure off Flacco yesterday. "I thought they were conservative all day," Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said. More often than not, Flacco put the Football in fullback Le'Ron McClain's belly and McClain responded with 87 yards on 23 punishing carries. It wasn't just smart strategy. "Man, that McClain brings a load every play," Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "I told him he's got my Pro Bowl vote." It almost won the game.


If Harbaugh has any regrets, it's probably that he had Flacco throw as much as he did. A lot of bad things happened when Flacco dropped back into the pocket. That's what usually happens when a young quarterback goes against Dick LeBeau's Steelers defense.

Clark delivered the first big blow, intercepting a Flacco pass at the Steelers' 33. Cornerback Ike Taylor made the play, breaking hard inside wide receiver Marcus Smith to deflect the ball.

Aaron Smith stalled one third-quarter Ravens drive with an 11-yard sack and ended another by hurrying Flacco into an incompletion. He was credited with eight tackles.

"One of the best defensive ends in the league and he doesn't get enough credit," Farrior said of Smith, shaking his head. "Every player and coach on this team knows what he means to our defense. We love him to death."

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons made two huge fourth-quarter plays, breaking up a third-down pass for wide receiver Derrick Mason with a fierce hit and then blowing by running back Willis McGahee to sack Flacco to take the Ravens out of field-goal range. It was Timmons who had a big sack in overtime when the Steelers beat the Ravens, 23-20, Sept. 29.

"That was special," Foote added of Timmons' sack yesterday. "That was the play of the game. I don't take anything away from our offense, but I have to give it to my defensive comrade."

Why not? Timmons played a starring role in holding the Ravens to 202 total yards, including 90 passing yards. So did Farrior, who was credited with a game-best 12 tackles. Flacco's passer rating after Gay -- "That's big-play William Gay," Steelers safety Anthony Madison said -- ended the game with an end-zone interception: a sickly 22.2.

"We like our defense," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We step up to challenges. We've faced a bunch of hot offenses and hot quarterbacks. They take it personal. They respond to challenges.

"We have a unique group."

Make no mistake: It all starts with an attitude.

"We have a pretty high standard on this defense," Farrior said.

We want to defend each blade of grass...

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 16, 2008

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Gary Stills Name: Gary Stills
Position: DE
Age: 34
Experience: 10 years
College: West Virginia
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