The play looked like a sack in the making for Carlos Dunlap last Sunday, with the Cincinnati Bengals defensive end staying home on a bootleg to his side and closing on Joe Flacco with his 4.7 speed.
Not so fast.
Flacco stiff-armed the 6-6, 280-pound rushman and knocked Dunlap to the ground, a finish that had brought the defensive-line meeting room to attention.
“Dunlap’s a big, strong guy who can run, so you see that strength there,” said Corey Wootton, coincidentally 6-6, 280 pounds himself. “So you see that strength. He isn’t always moving and shaking in the pocket but he can get outside the pocket and go.
“He’s more of a strider so it’s deceptive speed.”
The Bears would like to see if they can do a little better than Dunlap did. The defense goes into games with an objective of rendering an opposing offense one-dimensional, meaning on Sunday taking away what has been a substandard run game and give Flacco chances to display that “deceptive speed” getting away from the pass rush.
The run game built around Ray Rice was No. 8 in rushing average last year. This season it is an abysmal 32nd (2.8 yards per carry) behind an offensive line that has struggled.
Therein lies the key. Teams have shut down down Rice (2.5 ypc.) and Bernard Pierce (2.8), forcing the game into Flacco’s hands where it was secure during a Super Bowl run but not now. Flacco has thrown 11 interceptions vs. 12 TD passes and the Ravens have allowed 30 sacks through nine games; they gave up just 38 all last year.
With the outside speed of Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith, Flacco takes his shots deep, meaning the ball is in his hands longer than most.
“You see Torrey Smith going down the field, Jacoby Jones, great speed, so when they’re taking a shot, they’re going 60 yards with guys either getting pass interference or catching it,” Wootton said. “There’s time where he’s quick on the release, but there’s also times where he holds it. When teams have been able to lock them up in the back half [of the defense], they’ve been successful in the rush.”
What to watch for: The Ravens signed left tackle Bryant McKinnie to a two-year deal worth $7 million in May but dealt him to Miami for a late-round draft choice in October. They traded two late picks to Jacksonville for 2009 eighth-overall pick Eugene Monroe and set him opposite right tackle Michael Oher.
Monroe has been a big upgrade over McKinnie but Oher has allowed five sacks, four hits and 20 hurries of Flacco. The Bears are likely to be without injured Shea McClellin (hamstring) and need to dominate a weak link with rookie David Bass and some play of Wootton at his natural right-end spot.