OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' defense has gone to two different extremes in the first quarter of the season.
In the first two weeks, the Ravens looked like one of the best defenses, forcing as many turnovers (10) as points allowed. In the past two games, Baltimore has appeared less than ordinary, giving up up 70 points and 791 yards.
What does linebacker Terrell Suggs tell his teammates in terms of turning around the defense?
"I tell them, 'Don’t be an idiot,'" Suggs said. "You all think it is more difficult than what it really is. [I tell them], 'Hey, man, you just have to execute the defense.'"
Baltimore's biggest problems during its struggles has been defending the run and getting pressure on the quarterback.
The Ravens allowed 339 yards rushing to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore's linebackers have not been able to set the edge consistently, which has led to running backs attacking the perimeter of the defense.
It's been similar troubles against the pass. The Ravens have recorded one sack the past two weeks (only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fewer) and totaled 14 quarterback pressures.
Both of these issues have put the outside linebackers under the microscope.
"I think we are doing good. I think we are doing really good," Suggs said. "You have to understand, we are 2-2. Naturally, we lost the last two, so of course we are going to feel like we are 0-4. I don’t think we are as terrible as you all are making us out to be, but we are definitely trying to get better. We are trying to get better every week. I think we are doing fine. What do you think now?"
A reporter said, "I think you are doing fine."
Suggs responded, "Thank you."
Free safety Eric Weddle believes the past two subpar performances have come from a combination of factors. Some players have been pressing, and others get down after giving up an early touchdown.
"We just have to play loose," Weddle said. "They get a first down or two, so what? It's just another opportunity for us to go out and make a play. I think getting over London and getting past the other stuff, I think we're back to just playing together and playing good football. Let's get back to what we do as a team: play great special teams, try to get an early lead, don't turn the ball over and let our defense play aggressive."
A week ago, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said the problem with Baltimore's defensive performance against the Jaguars was a lack of intensity. This week, Pees did not put the blame on the players.
The Steelers gained so many big plays because they used a different scheme with their pulling offensive linemen that caught the Ravens off guard. Pees tried to adjust the defensive calls, but he feels he should've changed the way the Ravens were playing different techniques.
"That is not on the players. That is on me," Pees said. "I am proud as hell of our players and the way they played that game. Am I disappointed in the outcome? Yes. Am I disappointed in them? No. I am disappointed in me."
The Ravens now play a Raiders team that has put points against them. Over the past two seasons, Oakland has scored a total of 65 points against Baltimore.
But this will be a different Raiders offense. Oakland is starting backup quarterback EJ Manuel and struggling to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch, who is averaging 2.8 yards per carry over the last three games.
The Ravens, though, are focusing on themselves.
"We have been playing this defense for a long time -- me, for 15 years," Suggs said. "You just have to get back to being yourself. We had a tremendous amount of success the first two weeks, and the last two weeks we have been trying to chase that and mirror that, and we kind of have gotten away from ourselves a little bit. When we get back to being Ravens and playing Raven-style defense, I think we will be fine."