BALTIMORE — Although the Baltimore Ravens rarely bring out players in tandem to the podium, a notable exception was made after Sunday’s 13-7 win over Buffalo.
Former high school teammates Shareece Wright and Jimmy Smith stood side by side, discussing their part in an outstanding defensive effort against elusive quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Bills.
Wright made 11 tackles and Smith put the clamps on Buffalo standout receiver Sammy Watkins.
Asked if he ever envisioned sharing a podium with Wright after an NFL game, Smith said, “This is the first time for this, ever. But, I mean, this is a unique situation. Hopefully we can get the film one day and watch it when we’re old, sitting somewhere.”
Backed up by safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb, Wright and Smith helped Baltimore limit Taylor to a mere 111 yards passing. Weddle was signed as a free agent and Webb has been shifted to free safety from cornerback.
“Eric Weddle, he’s a different kind of guy back there,” Wright said. “He’s like a defensive coordinator.”
Wright was burned several times last season after being signed in October. But on this day, he was exceptional.
“Big time,” is how Weddle described it. “Everybody got an eye-opener today of what he’s all about.”
It happened quickly. Three plays into their season, the Bills were already digging out of negative territory.
One 2-yard pass completion over the middle was all the positive yardage the Bills could muster. Running back LeSean McCoy was stuffed for a 6-yard loss and Taylor’s pass to the left was caught by Mike Gillisee for a 4-yard loss.
Wright penetrated into the backfield to make the tackle on both losses, setting the tone for Baltimore’s defensive renaissance.
A year ago, the Ravens repeatedly failed to come up with a big stop in the fourth quarter, one reason why they went 5-11 and lost nine games by eight points or fewer.
“Our corners played elite football out there,” coach John Harbaugh said. “If we can play like that in the back end, we’re going to have a chance to win some games.”
The pass defense was impressive, but Baltimore was also impenetrable against the run, allowing only 65 yards on 24 carries.
“Us keeping them to 60-plus yards was great, but obviously we can do better,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “We want to hold them to zero.”
Lofty expectations, indeed, but the Ravens would like to think this is only the beginning.
“Today was just a glimpse of what we can become,” Weddle said. “It’s still a work in progress. We still have areas we need to get better in, but when we needed to get a stop, we got it.
And that gives our defense some confidence for the future.”