On Wednesday, Ravens safety Bernard Pollard tried to deflect criticism for the Ravens' subpar defensive play away from defensive coordinator Dean Pees, saying, in part, "Don't blame the coach. Don't blame the coach, because the coach doesn't play."
The next day, Pees pointed a finger squarely at himself, saying the coaches bear responsibility for lapses in fundamentals and overall defensive play recently that "makes me sick."
The Ravens have surrendered more than 200 rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history and rank 26th in the league in both total defense and against the run.
"An old coach told me a long time ago 'Nothing happens by circumstance. There's a reason for everything.'" Pees said. "So you gotta look at it and find it."
And looking at things closely over the past week, Pees said much of the problem boils down to fundamentals.
"One of the things we gotta do ... it's the players, but it's the staff just as much, and it falls on me, is just do better fundamentals," Pees said.
"It isn't about the calls. If you don't play the call fundamentally correct, it doesn't really matter what the call is, whether it's a pressure, not a pressure, three-man rush, four-man rush, five-man rush, it does not matter. So we gotta get better at technique, and it's the same thing when it comes to missed tackles, which we had a bunch of in the last game. That's technique, and we gotta do a better job of coaching it throughout the entire practice."
Pees said he appreciated Pollard sticking up for him and pointed that out in a defensive meeting.
"Yes, it's the players that gotta go out there and make the tackles," Pees said. "But you know what? It's up to the coaches to No. 1, for me as coordinator, to put them in a position to make the tackles. That's No. 1. And then no. 2, if we see something (bad) in practice ... that's on us as coaches to stop it right there. That wasn't good enough. That wasn't good enough. We gotta come back and do it."
"If you allow it to happen, then when it happens in the game, don't blame the player for that. You had a chance to correct it during the week and didn't get it corrected."
It would be easy to use injuries as an excuse, with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs (Achilles) out all season thus far, and now injuries to linebackers Ray Lewis (torn tricpes) and Lardarius Webb (knee) likely ending their seasons as well.
Pees, though, said the talent is there even without those three.
" We have enough talent to succeed. We just have to play better."
If there is a silver lining, it's that despite the defensive woes, the Ravens sit at 5-1 and are tied for the AFC's best record.
"I'm happy as I can be to be 5-1, but I also feel fortunate to be 5-1 the way we're playing on defense," Pees said. "Let's be honest, OK? We're not playing well enough. To say it any other way would sound like a political debate."