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Old 12-09-2008, 08:19 AM   #1
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Default A clash of defensive titans

A clash of defensive titans
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The NFL's best defense in years?

Tell the truth.

You will be thrilled if the Steelers' defense is the better one on the field Sunday in Baltimore.

"I know how these games go," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said the other day. "The defense that makes the most plays is going to win the game."

We're biased. We're starting to think the Steelers' defense just might be the league's best since the Ravens' 2000 bunch. That talk is way premature, Foote said. "Until we win the Super Bowl, you can't say we're the best anything." Linebacker/defensive captain James Farrior agreed, although he did acknowledge, "I love these boys ... I think we have a chance to do some special things if we stay focused and don't lose our edge."

In Baltimore, they're thinking the same way about the Ravens' defense -- with good reason. The Steelers rank first in the NFL in run defense, pass defense and total defense, the Ravens third, second and second. The Steelers have a big edge in sacks -- 45-28 -- but the Ravens have more interceptions, 22-16. The Steelers haven't allowed 300 yards of offense in a game all season and held the powerful Dallas Cowboys to 289 in a 20-13 victory Sunday. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 32 games and held Washington's Clinton Portis to 32 yards on 11 carries in a 24-10 victory Sunday night. The fourth-quarter touchdown they allowed the Redskins' Antwaan Randle El was the first they gave up in 13 quarters and 46 possessions.

If the Ravens' defense has an edge this week, it's that it is playing at home, at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Steelers have lost five in a row. Since '03, the Ravens have played the best home defense in the NFL, allowing the fewest yards and touchdowns, while getting the most interceptions and second-most sacks. Safety Ed Reed's 22-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown against the Redskins was the Ravens' 27th defensive touchdown since '03, most in the league.

We think Steelers linebacker James Harrison -- 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles -- is the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. If not him, then safety Troy Polamalu, who has a league-best seven interceptions. But in Baltimore, they like Reed, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, who has four interceptions, a forced fumble and recovery and two touchdowns in the past three games. "Ed Reed has game-changing impact," Ravens rookie coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore media after the Washington game.

Are you starting to think the game Sunday could end, 7-6?

Neither team needs additional motivation -- the game is for first place in the AFC North Division -- but each defense provides some, anyway.

The Steelers don't like Ravens linebackers Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs much. The Scott animosity goes back to a brutal -- but clean -- hit he put on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger two years ago and the way he gushed afterward about thoroughly enjoying the sensation of feeling the air rush out of Big Ben's body. Suggs didn't make any friends when he told a national radio show earlier this season that the Ravens had a bounty out on Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and running back Rashard Mendenhall when the teams played Sept. 29. A legitimate hit from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis knocked Mendenhall out for the season that night with a broken shoulder.

For the Ravens' part, they can't be happy at the talk that the Steelers' defense has surpassed theirs. "The best in the world for a reason," Roethlisberger called the Steelers' defense Sunday after it ate Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo alive. The Ravens especially can't like the comparisons to their 2000 defense. Lewis figures to call that sacrilegious or silly nonsense or some such thing before the week is done.

In that Sept. 29 game, Lewis might have had the hit of the night, but the Steelers' defense made one more big play than the Ravens' in a 23-20 overtime victory. Harrison sacked rookie quarterback Joe Flacco late in the third quarter and teammate LaMarr Woodley picked up the resultant fumble and took it 7 yards for a touchdown. Harrison and Woodley combined for four of the Steelers' five sacks of Flacco.

"That's just those two at it again," Farrior said. "It's crazy how two people can totally change how you play."

Flacco has come a long way since that night. The Ravens have won seven of their past eight games in large part because he threw for 12 touchdowns and was intercepted just three times.

"The first time we played him, he wasn't afraid," Foote said. "You can tell when a quarterback is afraid. You love that. But he wasn't afraid. He impressed me."

That won't stop Harrison, Woodley and the rest from getting after Flacco Sunday.

You know, the way Suggs and Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce will be going after Roethlisberger.

I'm predicting 6-3, Steelers.

No, that's too many points.

How about 2-0?

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08344/933791-87.stm
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Old 12-09-2008, 08:24 AM   #2
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Default Re: A clash of defensive titans

That's a great article and it may be true. I wonder if any game has been won by a safety only?

Both defenses are playing at the top of their game right now. One mistake by either side is going to be the backbreaker.
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Old 12-09-2008, 09:53 AM   #3
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Default Re: A clash of defensive titans

I can't wait to smack these fools in the mouth, get a 10 point lead on them early and watch them start to yap at each other as they tend to do when a game starts to get away from them.
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Old 12-09-2008, 10:25 AM   #4
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Default Re: A clash of defensive titans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dino 5 Rings View Post
I can't wait to smack these fools in the mouth, get a 10 point lead on them early and watch them start to yap at each other as they tend to do when a game starts to get away from them.
I'm glad you can be so confident....with the way our offense is playing? Look at what Dallas did to us. Baltimore will bring twice as much.
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Old 12-09-2008, 10:32 AM   #5
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Default Re: A clash of defensive titans

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Originally Posted by LambertIsGod58 View Post
I'm glad you can be so confident....with the way our offense is playing? Look at what Dallas did to us. Baltimore will bring twice as much.
yeah but b-more dosnt have the offense dallas dose, should be a great game
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