The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Dallas Cowboys 31-29 on Sunday, October 14 to record their 15th consecutive home victory. The win came at a high price as three Ravens' defensive starters suffered serious injuries. Cornerback Lardarius Webb (torn ACL) and future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis (torn triceps) have been lost for the season, and All Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata sprained his medial collateral ligament. Ngata was hobbled against the Cowboys but is expected to play against the Houston Texans in Week 7.
The loss of Webb is a major disappointment as the young corner had emerged as the Ravens' top cover corner. Baltimore signed Webb to a long term contract extension in the offseason after he had successfully returned from a previous ACL tear. Webb's absence for the remainder of the season is particularly troubling as fellow cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams have struggled in coverage. Smith, a 2011 first round pick, and Williams will need to rise to the occasion to keep the Ravens atop the AFC North.
In his 17th NFL season Ray Lewis has certainly lost a step, or two. Thus far in 2012 Lewis and the Ravens have struggled to defend the run. The Chiefs and Cowboys both gashed Baltimore's defense for over 200 yards rushing in consecutive weeks, a first in franchise history. Baltimore went 4-0 last season when Lewis missed time due to injury. The Ravens will miss Lewis for his on field leadership but the team has several young linebackers who may be ready to fill the void. Dannell Ellerbe, a fourth year linebacker out of Georgia, is having arguably his best season. Ellerbe, who has shared time with Jameel McClain alongside Lewis, is expected to be inserted into the starting lineup.
While things may look bleak for Baltimore all is not lost. The Ravens are tied with the Texans for the best record in the AFC at 5-1. Baltimore will travel to Houston for a Week 7 matchup to determine AFC supremacy. The Ravens have played the first six games of the season without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs who is recovering from a torn achilles tendon. Suggs, who could return as soon as Week 9, will provide a huge lift to Baltimore's beleaguered defense. With four more home games on the schedule, as well as trips to Cleveland, Oakland, and Cincinnati looming, and a much improved offense the Ravens have a chance to match last season's 11-5 record despite the season ending injuries to Lewis and Webb.
*Information gathered from http://www.nfl.com