Will the Ravens Secondary Sink Their Playoff Chances?


Nov 30, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a touchdown while Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb (21) defends in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Ravens secondary stinks.  Whether you choose to blame the front office, the coaching staff, or the players themselves, this unit is by far the worst on the team and perhaps the worst overall group of corners and safeties in the entire NFL.  Losing their one decent corner, Jimmy Smith, to injury has had an even bigger effect on this defense than we could have imagined.

Opposing teams know that the way to beat the Ravens is through the air.  The Ravens are ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing a mere 86.2 yards per game (3.6 avg) and they are 10th in sacks.  The front seven is an imposing unit that is among the very best in the NFL, which only further highlights the glowing weakness in the back half of the defense.

In a conference stacked with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, do the Ravens even stand a chance with the NFL’s worst pass defense?

That putrid secondary is now ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed (3518) and is allowing an average of 293.2 yards per game, which is also last.  The Ravens have given up 44 passing plays of 20+ yards and 9 plays of 40+ yards, both ranking in the bottom third of the league.

On a team that appears to have few other weaknesses, the poor secondary play is a big threat to a club that has aspirations of competing for a playoff spot and possibly more.  In a conference stacked with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, do the Ravens even stand a chance with the NFL’s worst pass defense?

Week 13’s loss to the Chargers is a perfect example of how just a couple of guys can lose a football game.  Though the front seven didn’t help by committing multiple penalties, the back half of the defense gift wrapped Phillip Rivers’ best game of the season and ultimately cost them the game.

The good news is, teams with sub par to poor secondaries have gone deep into the playoffs before, some even to the Super Bowl. With the demand for quality corners and safeties far outweighing the supply, teams can often successfully mask their deficiencies in pass defense with a strong pass rush.

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It’s a formula that has worked for teams like the Giants and the Saints in the past.  But while those teams were able to scheme away their woes, the Ravens have thus far failed to do so.  The pass rush has run too hot and cold this season, and when they fail to get to the quarterback, bad things happen.

The pass rush ran cold against the Chargers, and Phillip Rivers proceeded to pick them apart.  The Ravens secondary had no answer for Keenan Allen, a receiver who had been in a season long sophomore slump until he had a field day in week 13.  Even Eddie Royal, who had not topped 50 yards receiving since week 4, tallied 9 receptions for 81 yards and a score.

While there is still time for the Ravens to make adjustments, the proverbial clock is ticking.  And after their implosion against the Chargers at home, I have my doubts they can hold it together down the stretch.  Even if the Ravens manage to beat the Dolphins this week and ultimately earn a playoff bid, how far can they really go?  With a secondary this bad, I doubt it will be very far.