Marlon Humphrey Says Ravens Defense Is Chasing ‘Elite Greatness’

CB Marlon Humphrey

Getty CB Marlon Humphrey celebrates intercepting a pass with his teammates in a regular season game on November 20, 2022.

The Baltimore Ravens emerged victorious 13-3 in what was an unexpected defensive battle with the Carolina Panthers in Week 11 because they had the more dominant defense. Their unit yielded just one scoring drive the entire game and allowed season-lows in both total yards (total) and points (three) allowed.

If it hadn’t been for a late mental gaffe in garbage time that resulted in a late score for the New Orleans Saints in their Week 9 game, this would’ve marked their second straight game without giving up a touchdown. While they still have yet to pitch a complete shutout, the surging bunch seems to be inching closer each week.

“You can’t be too mad with three [points allowed], but we’re really trying to chase Ravens’ defenses [from] the past that have just showed an elite greatness,” All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey said in his postgame press conference. “That’s kind of what we’re chasing, and we’re looking better and better every week.”

The two-time Pro Bowler was one of several Ravens defenders that had an amazing outing against the Panthers. He recorded two total tackles, a pass deflection, an interception, and a fumble recovery that he should’ve been allowed to return for a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Humphrey didn’t allow a single completed pass in 38 coverage snaps, allowed an opposing passer rating of just 0.0, and finished as both the Ravens’ highest-graded defender and player altogether with an overall of 91.9.

Their recent performances are reflective of a unit that is far removed from the one that aided and abetted the offense in not being able to close out games and hold onto double-digit leads in all three of their losses this year. The epic Week 2 collapse in their home opening loss to the Dolphins is so far in the review that it seems like a distant memory.

“I think we’ve been steadily improving all year because everyone comes to work every day and just tries to communicate and tries to do their best,” Harbaugh said in his postgame press conference. “When you do that and you work together, you have a chance to improve, and that’s basically what guys have done.”

Ravens veteran defensive end Calais Campbell credited some of their early-season struggles to the fact that this is their first year under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and that they were “depending on” some of their younger player. Now that Macdonald has had the “time to put his own spin on things” and those young players have gained some much-needed experience and learned from it, the whole unit is trending in the right direction.

“Coach [Harbaugh] talks about the trajectory of where you’re trying to go, and right now that matters, 100%,” Campbell said in his postgame press conference. “We’re on that trajectory and it’s continuing to build. We have great players, and we expect success, and we had a lot, but for whatever reason couldn’t finish. There were moments we couldn’t make plays and that cost us. But now, we’re rolling.”

The Ravens emphasized creating more turnovers during the offseason and that hard work is paying major dividends through their first 10 games of the season. They forced three in the final nine minutes against their Panthers to bring their total for the year to 19 which is the second-most in the league this season and four more than they recorded all of last season with 15.

“It’s a major, major point,” Harbaugh said. “For us to be able to kind of turn that back into being a turnover-creating defense is really a big deal. We have some guys that are ball hawks.”

The fumble that Humphrey recovered was forced by his fellow All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters set the offense up with a short field that they turned into the only touchdown drive of the game. Their third and final turnover came via an interception by veteran outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul who corralled a pass that was batted at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Broderick Washington.

Has Roquan Smith Unlocked Patrick Queen?

When the Ravens acquired the two-time All-Pro from the Chicago Bears at the midseason trade deadline, many assumed that they were putting the third-year pro on notice and that the proverbial writing was on the wall for him. While Smith’s presence was projected to elevate the level of play from the defense as a whole, it has really helped Queen take his game to the next level.

Queen was already stringing together consecutive strong performances before the Ravens traded for Smith but the pairing of the two has unleashed him to realize and be utilized to his full potential more than unlocked something that had yet to be seen on a regular basis.

“That guy is All-Pro for a reason, and I guess now they have two guys that they have to really account for in the blitzing game and just being an all-around playmaker flying around,” Queen said.

They both played 100 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps which opened the door for arguably Queen’s best game of the year. He finished with a season-high 12 total tackles and nine solos as well as a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, and half a sack while Smith recorded seven total tackles including six solos and one for a loss and a sack in his first home game as a Raven.

“It was amazing,” Smith said about his first game at M&T Bank Stadium. “The fans were out here. It was a little nippy for them outside, but they were still cheering us on.

In his press conference, the day after the game on November 21, 2022, Harbaugh compared the near-instant chemistry between Queen and Smith to “love at first sight”.

“I think we’re just all trusting each other to make the play, not leaving anyone to hang out dry,” Queen said. We’re all running to the ball, being physical. Everyone is just doing their job, one by one, one play at a time. It felt incredible; it felt like Ravens football honestly.”

Pass Rush Continues to Stay Red-Hot

The Ravens struggled to generate consistent pressure through the first four weeks of the season with just two healthy outside linebackers on the roster at one given time. However, now that they are deeper and much more talented on the edge of their defense, their pass rush has been potent and highly productive.

Since Week 5 the Ravens’ defense has recorded three or more sacks in every game including a trio of four-sack outings and one of five. They’ve also been dominant against the run as well having held three straight opponents to under 50 yards on the ground and four of their last five under 100 with the lone exception being 113 in Week 7 against the Browns.

The Panthers had rushed for over 160 yards in three of their previous four games heading into their Week 11 matchup with the Ravens and were held to just 36 yards on the ground. Former No. 1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield, was hit and harrassed from start to finish to the tune of four sacks as he fell to 3-6 against his former division rival dating back to his time with the Cleveland Browns.

“I think our defensive line deserves a ton of credit,” Harbaugh said. “If I had to go back in there and do it again, I’d give it to the D-line just because they dominated. This is a very good running team, and they pretty much dominated the run game, really dominated the run game. And, we were making it really hard on Baker all day.”

The Ravens had five different defenders record a full or a share of a sack in their decisive win including Smith, Queen, Campbell, Pierre-Paul, and Justin Houston for the fourth game in a row and six of the season. In seven games, the 12-year veteran edge defender is tied for the fourth-most sacks in the league with a team-leading nine.