Ravens facing in-your-face foe in Cowboys' secondary
BALTIMORE — Ravens coach John Harbaugh noticed one thing in particular as he watched film of a revamped Dallas Cowboys secondary using a variety of coverages to blanket offenses.
“They get up in your face when they play quarters. They get up in your face when they play halves. And when they play (Cover 3), they're in your face,” he said. “It's just the style they play.”
On Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Cowboys will use an aggressive approach similar to the one the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles used to slow the Ravens' eighth-ranked passing attack this season. Struggles against physical press coverage were as much of a factor in those two sluggish showings as inaccurate throws, protection breakdowns or lopsided play-calling.
For Baltimore to move the ball through the air against top-ranked Dallas pass defense, Ravens wide receivers must shake free of physical Cowboys cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, who excel at bumping receivers out of their routes at the line of scrimmage.
But the burden of beating press coverage is not just on the wide receivers. In last Sunday's 9-6 win in Kansas City, quarterback Joe Flacco completed just 13 of his 27 attempts for 187 yards and one interception. The Ravens' 298 total yards were a season low, and it was Flacco's first game without a TD pass since Week 13 of last season.
“If we get out there and run crisp routes and get the ball out of my hand and protect, that's how you beat it,” Flacco said. “But if you get a little sloppy and you aren't as precise with the ball, that's when you can let some of that tight underneath coverage get to you.”
Harbaugh's staff and the players talked at length about the need to make adjustments. Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler and veteran receiver Anquan Boldin have tutored the young receivers on boxing out cornerbacks and chopping their hands away to escape the 5-yard area in which defenders are allowed to make contact.
After the Cowboys were victimized by long pass plays late in games last season, they were determined to upgrade their secondary. They signed Carr (6-0, 210) away from the Chiefs with a five-year, $50 million deal. Then they traded up eight spots to the sixth overall pick to draft Claiborne (5-11, 185) out of LSU.
“It's become such a passing league,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I think any defensive coach, and really any offensive coach, would tell you that if you have real good corners and real good cover guys on the back end, it gives you much more freedom to play what you want to play on defense.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers remain confident in defense
- Berry wins Steelers’ puntingjob; Wing traded to Giants
- With most starters resting, Steelers turn in lackluster loss at Heinz
- Steelers laud decision, praise Brady for taking on Goodell
- Steelers notebook: Thomas, Moats only starting defensive players to see action vs. Panthers
- Steelers running back eager to prove he can help bridge gap to Bell
- Steelers accomplish mission to get younger, faster on defense
- Steelers notebook: New kicker Scobee relishes opportunity
- Bubble players get last chance to impress Steelers
- Steelers trying to get missing defensive pieces on field
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise