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Zbikowski a primary success in Ravens' secondary
By Gene Chamberlain | Special to the Daily Herald

Ravens defensive back Tom Zbikowski


Associated Press file

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Published: 12/20/2009 10:52 PM

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BALTIMORE - The final tackles tally in Sunday's 31-7 win by the Baltimore Ravens over the Bears found former Buffalo Grove High School player Tom Zbikowski right alongside some elite company.

Starting at free safety for injured Ed Reed, Zbikowski finished with 7 tackles, second best on the day for Baltimore behind perennial all-pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis and just ahead of defensive end Terrell Suggs' 5 tackles.

"We're just having fun," the former Notre Dame star said of a Ravens defense that has allowed 85 points the last eight games after giving up 130 the first six. "We're just playing simple calls and communicating and everyone's just playing.

"As long as we keep them out of the end zone, we know we'll correct (mistakes)."

Zbikowski and the Ravens' defense didn't give up a score on the day. The second-year safety had only one shot at an interception, but an errant first-quarter throw by Bears QB Jay Cutler landed short of him in the open field.

However, the Ravens' Domonique Foxworth, Jarret Johnson and Frank Walker each produced interceptions and Baltimore recovered a pair of fumbles.

When the Bears fell behind 21-7 in the third quarter, Zbikowski said he could see the turnover avalanche coming from the Bears.

Besides Cutler's 3 interceptions, backup QB Caleb Hanie threw his first NFL interception and with each mistake the Ravens turned more hawkish on the ball.

"You're not going to run the ball then; it's only going to take off too much clock," Zbikowski said. "If you run for a couple yards, who cares if it's another yard or 2? We're trying to go for the ball then. We're going to take the ball in that situation."

The Ravens also had wide receiver Devin Aromashodu figured out. A week after he had 8 catches, Aromashodu had only 2 - and Cutler targeted him with 10 throws.

Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner placed some of the blame for the Bears' passing game problems on quarterback Jay Cutler.

"Receivers were getting inside on a slant, and they were heavy inside on them, so we'd like to be able to recognize that and just not force it and throw it away and punt the ball at times when we don't have a good look," Turner said. "And that's stuff he'll (Cutler) learn.

"When you have a good look and have what you want defensively then you have to execute. When you don't, then you have to manage the bad plays."

About all Cutler could do consistently was scramble against the Ravens defense, and that ended in the second half. Cutler had four first-half scrambles for 23 yards and couldn't get out and run in the second.

"(Defensive line coach) Clarence Brooks (formerly of the Bears) did a great job at halftime kind of tightening that down a little bit so he (Cutler) couldn't get out and scramble," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And our pass coverage in the back end was just exceptional."