BALTIMORE — Rex Ryan had seen it many times before: The Baltimore Ravens didn’t do much on offense, yet it hardly mattered because their defense was so sharp.
That’s how the Ravens won when Ryan was their defensive coordinator from 2005-08, and that is precisely the formula Baltimore used to beat Ryan’s New York Jets on Sunday.
Joe Flacco threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, Justin Tucker kicked four field goals and the Ravens shut down the Jets’ sputtering offense in a 19-3 victory.
The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens (5-6) had lost four of five before bouncing back to beat New York (5-6) and keep their playoff hopes alive. Jones had four catches for 103 yards and returned five punts for 108 yards.
But Baltimore won on the strength of its defense. The unit forced three turnovers, limited the Jets to 220 yards and denied 11 of 12 third-down tries. Rookie Geno Smith completed nine of 22 passes for 127 yards and two interceptions, both by Corey Graham.
“What can you say about our defense?” coach John Harbaugh said. “It was a dominant defensive performance.”
It was the fewest points allowed by Baltimore since December 2009, a 48-3 win over Detroit.
“I feel like we were dialed in today,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “There’s always a little something added when we’re playing Rex. We’re proud of the fact what we didn’t give up a touchdown, and getting off the field on third down was huge.”
New York had alternated wins and losses in its first 10 games, but the pattern ended here with its second straight defeat. Ryan, who also served as defensive line coach with Baltimore from 1999-2004, fell to 0-3 against his former team.
“We knew, quite honestly, that their defense was going to be tough sledding,” Ryan said. “With that, we’ve got to be more efficient on third down. That’s a big reason (for) the struggles. I thought we dropped too many balls, and that’s where it started offensively. On defense, when you’re playing in a game like that, you got to be sound, you got to be good and it has to be for 60 minutes.
“There’s probably three or four plays that we weren’t in.”
The Ravens tried several ploys to spice up their stagnant offense, most notably using backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in a variety of formations. Not only did Taylor receive a direct snap and run, but he also handed off the ball and caught a pass in his most extensive action of the season.
None of it produced a touchdown, though, until Jones got behind former teammate Ed Reed and made a fine catch of Flacco’s deep throw before coasting into the end zone for a 19-3 lead with 5 seconds left in the third quarter.
That was more than enough to dispose of the Jets, whose offense was so out of sync that they burned their third timeout of the second half with 14:53 left in the fourth quarter.
Over his last six games, Smith has thrown 10 interceptions and one touchdown pass.
“This is not on one individual,” Ryan said. “This is on us, collectively.”
Obviously, that’s the message Ryan conveyed to his players.
“We got to back him up,” offensive tackle Willie Colon said of Smith. “We didn’t do that today.”
But Smith’s numbers have created conjecture that Ryan might be close to changing quarterbacks.
“Everybody always wants a new quarterback in there,” Smith said. “I just keep trying to improve and work on myself. I know I can lead this team to the playoffs.”
Tucker kicked a 53-yard field goal for a 12-3 lead early in the third quarter after a 20-yard punt return by Jones gave Baltimore the ball at the New York 33.
Graham subsequently ended two New York drives with interceptions in the third and fourth quarters.
“They made some plays,” Graham said, “but when it came down to it, we made the bigger plays. We knew we had to outplay their defense, and that’s what we were able to do.”
Baltimore’s previous seven games were decided by six points or fewer, four of which resulted in losses. This was the Ravens’ most lopsided win since Sept. 22.
“It’s just a relief to get a win,” linebacker Daryl Smith said.
The Jets trailed 9-3 at halftime despite completing only three passes, gaining 73 yards, making three first downs and losing the ball after the snap hit the man in motion.
Using Josh Cribbs in the wildcat formation on several plays, New York went up 3-0 with a drive in which Smith caught an 18-yard pass from Cribbs and completed an 18-yarder to Greg Salas.
The Ravens answered with field goals on their next two possessions. The second kick was set up by a 60-yard completion from Flacco to Torrey Smith, who got behind Antonio Cromartie and made a nice over-the-shoulder grab.
Tucker kicked another field goal just after the two-minute warning after tight end Ed Dickson caught two passes for 40 yards.
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