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Ravens will have options trying to stop RG3

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Ravens will have options trying to stop RG3

Each week brings different challenges for an NFL defense. The Ravens get a few interesting ones this week when they take on the Redskins down in Landover.

One of the biggest challenges is going to be stopping rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, someone who's playing a lot like a veteran so far this season and is a big reason the Redskins are 6-6 and fighting for a playoff spot. The Redskins are using Griffin in a number of different ways that opposing defenses are finding tough to stop.

Washington's coming into this game off of wins over the Cowboys and Giants and its "Pistol" offense has been a big reason. It involves the option and fake and quick hand-offs and is common in high schools and colleges but not in the NFL. In years past, teams at this level haven't wated to run option offenses because it means quarterbacks get hit more often. 

But the Redskins are making it work now, which is something the Ravens' defense needs to watch for.

"I think it’s tough on everybody," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said when talking to the media Friday. "If you watch all the teams that they’ve played, they’ve played some darn good defenses. It’s just really a different scheme that you don’t see every week."

Pees said the Ravens are going to focus on what they did against Michael Vick and the Eagles, stick with what you're supposed to do.  He wants to see the Ravens do a better job with it this time around than they did versus Vick, who really created a lot of problems even though the Ravens caused turnovers. 

"Have your eyes on what your responsibility is," Pees said. "If it’s a dive, if it’s the quarterback, if it’s the pitch in the option, whatever it is, having your eyes on what you have. You have a responsibility, you have a technique, and you have to perform that thing. You have to be very disciplined, and the biggest thing is know your responsibility and have your eyes on it. The biggest thing with this guy, which we didn’t do well in the second game against [Michael] Vick is all of the sudden, he starts moving around back there and everybody is watching him instead of watching or playing the zone that you need to be in. We did a terrible job of that in Week 2. Hopefully, we’ll do a lot better this time around.”

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Ravens defense slips in fourth quarter

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Ravens defense slips in fourth quarter

It's an old phrase that football coaches have repeated for years--you've gotta play the whole game.

The Ravens didn't Sunday night. The Steelers did and that's a big reason they pulled out the surprising 23-20 victory over the Ravens, a win that kept Pittsburgh alive in the AFC playoff hunt.

There's no question as to why the Steelers came back for the win. Despite playing with third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, the Steelers' offense didn't appear to miss a beat and pushed the Baltimore defense around in the second half.

Pittsburgh scored 17 points in the second half after Batch struggled throughout the first two quarters. The Ravens couldn't stop them on defense. Even more frustrating was that the Ravens took a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter and gave up 10 unanswered points, all of which came in the final half of the quarter.

"We have to finish. We didn’t do a good job of that today," safety Bernard Pollard said afterwards. "Games like this, we need to be ready to go. We’ve got to finish, and today, we didn’t do a good job of it.”

The Ravens, for whatever reason, didn't seem to play with as much intensity in the second half as the first. In that first half, the Ravens kept Batch and the Steelers quiet for much of the time.

But somehow Pittsburgh opened things up on offense in the final two quarters, especially in the passing game. Did the Ravens overlook Batch a bit? They said that didn't happen, but in the end, the defense couldn't hold the Steelers in the second half, a problem that's unusual for coach John Harbaugh's team.

(on the Ravens-Steelers rivalry) “We didn’t care who their quarterback was, we knew it was going to be a tough game. For us, we just have to watch the film and figure out where we messed up. We’ve got to find out what we’ve got to get better at and move on.”

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Defense can't hold off late Pittsburgh rally

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Defense can't hold off late Pittsburgh rally

The Ravens made a lot of good plays on defense Sunday, coming up with three Pittsburgh turnovers in this AFC North battle. In the end, though, the Ravens couldn’t do enough to stop the Steelers.

After leading much of the game, the Ravens watched the Steelers score the game’s final 10 points, including Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard field goal as time expired that gave Pittsburgh a come-from-behind 23-20 victory. That ended Baltimore's home winning streak at 15 games. Pittsburgh was the last team to beat the Ravens at home, and that was two years ago.

 The Ravens shut down third-string quarterback Charlie Batch throughout the first half. He missed on a bunch of passes, including his overthrow of a wide open receiver in the end zone in the final minute. But the veteran slowly came to life in the second half, and the Pittsburgh air attack also awoke as the Steelers scored 17 points in the final two quarters.

“[He] played very well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He did a good job. Charlie’s always been a good quarterback. We had a lot of respect for him going into the game.”

Batch completed 25 of 36 for 276 yards and one touchdown. The Steelers were able to move the ball throughout the second half and put pressure on the Ravens, something they couldn't do in the first half. 

“They made enough plays to win the game, so you have to tip your hat to them,” Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin said.

But Batch and the Steelers needed to overcome the three turnovers the Ravens forced that derailed the Steelers a few times.

Corey Graham picked off a pass from wide receiver Antonio Brown in the first half. Brown throws left-handed and tried to throw back across the field to the right side after Batch handed him the ball on a reverse-- and the ball hung long enough for Graham to catch it.

Joe Flacco threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin four plays later for a 13-3. The Steelers’ offense got in gear after that but still needed to overcome two turnovers. Emmanuel Sanders caught a Batch pass over the middle but fumbled with no one near him. The ball rolled away, and Ed Reed recovered it.

In the fourth quarter, Reed stepped up again. He made a leaping interception of a Batch pass in the end zone that was intended for Heath Miller that preserved the Ravens’ 20-13 lead with 10:59 left in the game.

The Steelers then took advantage of a Joe Flacco fumble to get the ball in good field position and get a short drive for the tying touchdown. Batch then guided Pittsburgh on a long 12-play drive that ate up the final 6 minutes, 14 seconds.

“I’m not sure how they were hurting us,” linebacker Paul Kruger said. “It just seemed we were out of rhythm. They were making the plays they needed to make, and they were hitting us right where they could. We just have to go back and made those corrections and finish strong.”