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Defense keeping Baltimore in driver's seat

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Dec. 12, 2011 @ 11:03 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

If the Ravens, now 10-3 after a 24-10 victory vs. Indianapolis on Sunday, win out, they will capture the the AFC North. Also, they will win the conference, thus clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, ESPN reported Monday.

Since defeating Pittsburgh in Week Nine — earning the all-important season sweep and head-to-head tiebreaker with Pittsburgh, which is also 10-3 — the Ravens have lost just once, and they have captured four games in a row after that disappointing 22-17 loss to Seattle in Week 10.

The Ravens' defense has played especially well recently. In the last three games, the Ravens have allowed two touchdowns — and both of those scores were in the fourth quarter, when Baltimore had the games under control. In fact, the Colts' TD Sunday was on their final play.

In those last three games, OLB Terrell Suggs has been exceptionally disruptive, notching seven sacks and forcing four fumbles. He had three of each vs. Indianapolis on Sunday.

"I don't think there's a defensive player in the league who is playing better than Terrell Suggs right now," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "He seems like he gets better every week. The work ethic is really unparalleled."

The PFW spin

Suggs, who has already set a career high for sacks in the regular season (13) with three games left to play, has helped the Ravens' defense thrive even as MLB Ray Lewis has missed the last four games with a foot injury.

"Right now, I think we are all just doing our parts — holding the levee until the general gets back," Suggs said Sunday. "That's how I honestly think we are playing."

Through Sunday's games, the Ravens were allowing fewer yards per play (4.45) than any other club. They were second in rushing yards allowed, fifth in passing yards surrendered and third in points given up (15.5). Only the Steelers and 49ers were allowing fewer points per contest — and Baltimore is a combined 3-0 against those clubs.

After Sunday's win, Suggs praised defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano for his work.

"Like I said, Chuck Pagano, if anybody is trying to hire a head coach, if they ask, I'm going to say he sucks," Suggs joked. "He's terrible. He's a terrible coach. His players don't love him, and he doesn't know what he's doing when he's calling a game.

"But we all know he's doing a good job. He's playing the chess match to death, and we're doing a good job as a unit and as a whole team."

The Chargers, whom the Ravens face in San Diego on Sunday night, have won two in a row, and their offense has played very well in the last two weeks. San Diego has scored a combined 75 points in wins vs. Jacksonville and Buffalo to keep its playoff hopes alive.

However, now the Chargers face a Baltimore defense that's at the top of its game. It shapes up as one of the more compelling story lines of Week 15 — and one of the Ravens' major remaining regular-season tests. 

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