Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees bemoaned the fact last week that allowing big plays has prevented his defense from being a top 10 one in the NFL.
"I mean I guess I don’t care, as long as we keep winning like we’re winning," Pees said. "But I do care."
While the Ravens rank No. 16 in yards allowed, Pees will appreciate that his defense is the NFL's stingiest in terms of points given up. The Ravens are averaging 14.9 points allowed, which is the best in the NFL.
It's been a combination of a stifling run defense and a relentless pass rush. The Ravens have shut down teams with arguably the NFL's best cornerback (Jimmy Smith), pass-rusher (Elvis Dumervil, seven sacks) and rookie (linebacker C.J. Mosley).
If the Ravens can keep up this pace, it would not only be quite an accomplishment, it could be a sign of things to come. In an era of explosive offenses, the cliché about defense winning championships still holds true. Five of the past 14 Super Bowl champions have led the NFL in fewest points allowed, including the Seattle Seahawks last season.
The last time the Ravens led the NFL in fewest points allowed was 2006, when the defense had self-proclaimed "organized chaos" with coordinator Rex Ryan. The Ravens' only other season topping the league in scoring defense was 2000, when they set the record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game schedule (165, an average of 10.3 per game).
This season is quite a turnaround for a Ravens defense that ranked 12th the past two seasons in fewest points given up. Seven weeks into the season, the Ravens are the only team not to allow more than 23 points in a game this season. In fact, the Ravens are just one of three defenses who have held teams to less than 19 points per game. The Detroit Lions (15.0) and San Diego Chargers (16.3) are the others.
Where the Ravens have excelled is in the red zone. The Ravens have allowed eight touchdowns on 22 series inside their own 20-yard line (36.4 percent), which is also best in the league.
In fact, teams have scored on only 13 of those 22 trips. The Ravens have caused four turnovers inside the 20-yard line, which includes Pernell McPhee's forced fumble Sunday.
“I think we have just been building," coach John Harbaugh said. "I think we have been putting one brick on top of the other and going through a process and trying to get better every single day. And when you do that, you can move down the road and improve. And our guys take it seriously. They come to work every day. They bring their lunch box, they bring their blue shirts, and they go to work. And that’s how you become a good football team.”