By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Baltimore Ravens' defense may not be as feared as it
once was, but thanks to linebacker Terrell Suggs, it is still a dangerous one.
Coming off a three-sack performance, Suggs will lead the Ravens on Sunday at
M&T Bank Stadium against a Green Bay Packers club that will be without its
star linebacker in Clay Matthews.
The Ravens saw a large turnover on the defensive side of the ball following
their Super Bowl victory last season, most notably losing linebacker Ray
Lewis to retirement and safety Ed Reed in free agency. That left the 30-year-
old Suggs as the leader of the unit and he has responded with a solid season
Looking to hold off the Miami Dolphins for a much-needed road win last Sunday,
Suggs came up with three fourth-quarter sacks, giving the defense six on the
day, and the Ravens kept their grip on a 26-23 victory.
Suggs has logged seven sacks this season and Baltimore ranks second in the NFL
with 19 as a team.
"We do a lot of reps in practice, so you have to be in tremendous shape,"
Suggs said. "We knew coming down here (to Miami) it was going to be a little
hot, a little sticky. Hydration was also a big key. It's all part of playing
Baltimore's endurance helped it overcome a 13-6 deficit at halftime. Justin
Tucker hit four field goals, with his 44-yarder with 1:42 remaining serving as
Joe Flacco completed 19-of-32 passes for 269 yards and running back Ray Rice
finished with 74 yards on 27 carries with a pair of touchdowns for the Ravens,
who were coming off a 23-20 loss at Buffalo and won on the road for the first
time in three tries this season.
After picking up the road victory, the Ravens will try to extend their home
winning streak over the NFC to 14 straight games dating back to the 2006
season. They have allowed just 15 points in their two victories in Baltimore
this season and have won 26 of their last 29 regular-season home games under
head coach John Harbaugh.
Baltimore will now try to keep Green Bay from picking up its first road win of
the 2013 season. The Packers have split their first four contests, picking up
two victories at home while suffering road setbacks to San Francisco and
Green Bay had its bye week following a 34-30 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 22,
but bounced back with a dominating 22-9 win over the visiting Detroit Lions
Mason Crosby hit five field goals to tie a single-game franchise record, while
Aaron Rodgers threw for 274 yards. That included an 83-yard touchdown pass to
James Jones, who ended with four catches for 127 yards.
Running back Eddie Lacy was also solid in Green Bay's ninth straight victory
at home and 23rd straight at Lambeau Field versus Detroit, rushing for 99
"This was a good division victory for us in front of the home crowd," said
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. "Coming off the bye week we wanted to come
out with a strong effort, and I think we had that here today. Would have been
nice to find the end zone a little more, but I thought we did an excellent job
Green Bay totaled 449 yards, while Detroit had just 286. Linebacker Nick Perry
had two sacks and Matthews added five tackles and one sack, but suffered a
broken thumb in the contest.
Matthews had three sacks in four games this year after logging 13 a season
ago despite missing four games with a hamstring injury. His latest injury will
sideline him for "multiple weeks" according to McCarthy.
"Clay Matthews is our best player on defense, but this is pro football. We've
been down this road before," said McCarthy. "It's an excellent opportunity for
others to step up and make plays and be part of packages as we get ready for
an excellent Baltimore Ravens football team."
Green Bay has won three of its four meetings with the Ravens, including a
27-14 victory in the last encounter on Dec. 7, 2009 at home. Matthews had two
sacks in that game.
The Ravens have won the only previous game between the clubs in Baltimore, a
48-3 rout on Dec. 19, 2005.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Packers have been excellent versus the run this season, giving up just 86
yards per game to rank fifth in the NFL. They have struggled, though, against
the pass, yielding 288.8 YPG and lost a big part of their pass rush in
Mike Neal is likely to join Perry as the outside linebackers and both are
coming off solid games. Perry had five tackles and forced a fumble versus the
Lions in addition to his two sacks, while Neal had a sack and made two of his
six tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
"We're going to miss Clay. Clay brings a lot of stuff to the table, but I
think people get so caught up in Clay's ability to make plays, that everybody
else just has to play their game," said Neal. "We're not going to be able to
mimic what clay does, but we control what we do. As long as we do that, we'll
With Flacco having been picked off five times in the Week 4 loss to the Bills,
the Ravens wanted to get the run game going versus the Dolphins and Rice had a
season-high 27 rush attempts despite a nagging hip injury that held him out of
action in Week 3.
There is no doubt that Rice alters how defenses can play Flacco as is also
dynamic in the passing game. He had six catches versus the Dolphins, while
wideout Torrey Smith made six grabs for 121 yards. That made him the first
Raven since Qadry Ismail in 1999 to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving
Baltimore was shorthanded in the receiving department last weekend with Jacoby
Jones again out with a knee injury and Marlon Brown inactive because of a
thigh issue. Jones, who was hurt in Week 1, was limited in practice again on
Wednesday, a status he held all of last week, while Brown and Brandon Stokley
(thigh) were also limited.
Suggs has matched a club record by recording a sack in five straight games,
tying the mark set by Adalius Thomas (2005, '06) and Paul Kruger (2012). He
knows the Ravens' defense, which ranks 14th overall in the NFL, faces a tough
challenge this weekend with Rodgers, but the surging Green Bay ground game
can't be ignored either.
The Packers totaled 180 yards on 33 carries versus the Lions, marking the
first time the franchise has run for at least 135 yards in three straight
games since 2006.
Lacy, meanwhile, fell one yard shy of becoming the third straight different
running back to reach 100 yards rushing in a game.
"A little bit (frustrating), but you know, 99 yards, that's still positive,"
said Lacy of just missing the mark. "It's a long season. We have a long road
ahead of us, so we'll get there eventually."
Green Bay ranks fifth overall in rushing at 141.0 yards per game, the first
time it has ranked in the top five on the ground at any point in the season
since finishing the 2003 campaign with the third-ranked ground attack.
An increased ground presence can only make Rodgers move dangerous, especially
down the field. His 83-yard scoring throw to Jones last week was his 12th
career TD pass of 70-plus yards.
"He does it his way. He's got his own unique style," Harbaugh said of Rodgers.
"He's great in the pocket. As you said, he's accurate, [and] he gets the ball
out very quickly. He's great on the move. He can move to run, but he really
moves to throw. Those guys do a great job of uncovering downfield."
Baltimore, though, ranks just behind Green Bay in defending the run, giving up
89.8 yards per game, and can certainly bring pressure on Rodgers. In addition
to Suggs' efforts last weekend, linebackers Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw
and Pernell McPhee also notched sacks.
"It's a very good defense, and it's been a very good defense for decades,"
McCarthy said of the Ravens. "Terrell Suggs is a big part of that. He's a
premier pass rusher; I like all their pass rushers. They've got Suggs,
Dumervil and Upshaw. They have very good depth there. It's a big, physical
defensive line, an athletic back end. This will be a big challenge for our
While left tackle Eugene Monroe, acquired last week from Jacksonville, did not
play versus Miami as he continues to learn the offense, A.Q. Shipley saw rare
action at left guard when Kelechi Osemele was forced out due to back spasms.
Osemele could return this weekend as he practiced on Wednesday, but it is
unknown if Monroe will get the call over Bryant McKinnie at left tackle.
"It's something that's a work in progress right now," Harbaugh said of working
Monroe in. "We're in the middle of it. Since the minute he got here, it's been
very hard work trying to get him up to speed on the offense, so we'll know it
when we see it. We'll practice this week. We'll see how it looks."
An already dangerous offense could get more deadly if McCarthy can stick to
the run game. Forcing the Ravens to move more guys into the box will only open
things up for Rodgers, who can nullify the pass rush with his quick release.
The Ravens have been a better defensive team at home than on the road and the
absence of Matthews should make Rice a factor, but Green Bay should be able to
handle the inconsistent Flacco even without its best defender.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 23, Ravens 17
10/10 14:42:43 ET
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