OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens' bid to reach the postseason will depend heavily of their second-ranked defense, a unit that has performed effectively despite an assortment of injuries.
Baltimore leads the NFL in stopping the run and is seventh against the pass. Thus far, that's been good enough to offset a spotty offense that ranks 22nd in yardage and is averaging only two touchdowns per game.
The Ravens (5-5) long ago built a reputation for hitting hard and playing rugged defense, and this team is a throwback to the days when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed made life miserable for the rest of the league.
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''It's your typical Baltimore defense,'' said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who will face the Ravens on Sunday. ''They do a really good job against the run and get you into third-and-long situations. That's the way Baltimore's been for a long time.''
The most impressive aspect of the current unit is that rarely has it been at full strength.
Linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley, along with cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright, all have missed at least one game because of injury. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil has suited up only once this year while recovering from foot surgery, but he's hopeful of returning against Cincinnati (3-6-1).
Linebacker Zach Orr leads the team with 86 tackles and safety Eric Weddle ranks second with 51. Weddle also has two of the Ravens' 11 interceptions.
Signed as a free agent during the offseason after a nine-year run with San Diego, Weddle has been an integral part of a defense he expects to ultimately finish as the best in the business.
''There's only so many opportunities you have in this league to do something special and be No. 1,'' he said Wednesday. ''You always will have that.''
The Ravens owned the top-ranked defense before sputtering in a 27-17 loss to Dallas on Sunday. Try as he might, Weddle couldn't get that game out of his mind.
''We did a lot of good things in last week's game but it wasn't good enough,'' he said. ''We didn't do our part to get a win.''
Dallas scored all its points over the final 36 minutes. That left the Baltimore defense with the feeling that there's plenty of room for improvement.
''Our defense has played really well,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''And the thing I love about our defense is they're not satisfied with anything they've done in the past. They're going to keep building on what they've done well and keep trying to improve. That's the beautiful thing about it. As well as they've played, we can play better.''
Weddle understands the importance of defense for Baltimore. Yet, he doesn't believe the success of the team depends upon it.
''We want to play great, week-in, week-out, regardless what's happening on offense,'' he said. ''I know deep down they're going to win us some games and we're going to need them when it matters most. Until that happens, we've got to go out and play great. We've got to keep the ball out of the end zone, eliminate the big plays and stuff the run like we've been doing.''
Notes: Dumervil and TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh) practiced Wednesday. ... Smith (back) missed the session but Harbaugh expressed hope the DB would practice on Thursday. ... RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (hamstring) also missed practice.
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