- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Baltimore Ravens gave up a franchise record 49 points in Thursday's season opener. Their defense is ranked last in the league after allowing 510 yards.
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees still thinks this is a top-10 defense. How strongly does he feel about this? In his opening remark with reporters Thursday, Pees went on for four minutes without interruption in a spiel that veered from explanation to frustration at times.
"We didn't play poorly; we played poor plays," Pees said. "And there were nine of them, and we’ve got to correct those nine plays. I still believe we can be a very, very good defense."
As Pees pointed out, the Ravens gave up 307 yards on nine plays. On the other 59 snaps, Baltimore held Denver to 203 yards. Pees was pleased how the Ravens held the Broncos to 2.8 yards per rush while playing just six men in the box. He couldn't remember getting to Peyton Manning more than the Ravens did Thursday, sacking him three times and hitting him nine times.
The problem was the breakdowns that led to big chunks of yards and points. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had three catches that totaled 138 yards, and tight end Julius Thomas had three receptions for 91 yards. Andre Caldwell, Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker all had catches over 22 yards.
"It was tough being a punchline on the countdown shows and morning shows," defensive lineman Chris Canty said.
For many years, it was always assumed the Ravens would have an elite defense. Baltimore ranked in the top 10 from 2003 to 2011. But last year, the Ravens fell to No. 17 in the league.
The Ravens had high expectations that this defense would improve significantly with the additions of Canty, pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil and safety Michael Huff. The first impression, however, was a poor one. Manning threw for 462 yards, the second-most ever given up by the Ravens.
Even though the Ravens have so many new pieces on defense, Pees said the lapses had nothing to do with chemistry.
"I think our guys really work well together [and] like each other. It’s a great room," he said. "It didn’t have anything to do with that. We did not execute, whether it was technique or a missed tackle. In preseason, I said one of the things I felt best about coming out of the preseason as the way that we tackled. And we didn’t tackle as well in this game."
Over the course of 11 questions with Pees, he didn't mention the Browns, who play in Baltimore on Sunday, or any of their players like running back Trent Richardson or quarterback Brandon Weeden. You get the sense that this week is about the Ravens defense focusing on itself and its mistakes.
"It is personal," Pees said. "I love this defense. I love these guys. And when you put that much work into it and hard work and really dedicated to it and believing what you’re doing and really just a few things make an unbelievable amount of difference, it does -- it really bothers me. It bothers me because I want us to be a top-10 defense. I want us to be a top-tier defense. I think we are a top-tier defense if we don’t do those things."