OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens are the first team in 12 years not to allow a second-half touchdown in their first four games.
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Why have the Ravens dominated after halftime?
"Just call it coincidence," coach John Harbaugh said coyly.
"It’s kind of like a pitcher with a no-hitter," linebacker Terrell Suggs said, suggesting no one talk about it.
If you want to know why the defense has given up a total of nine points in the second half this season, you have to go across the country and venture into a different sport.
Ravens defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale revealed that the secret of the Ravens’ success is an offseason study on how the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors handle halftime. The Warriors are known for crushing teams in the third quarter, outscoring opponents by over 100 points in that period last postseason.
"They have short halftimes. We only have 12 minutes, right, at halftime," Martindale said. "So, it really has to be like an Indy pit crew in there, if you will. If you see the thing — the players are going to the bathroom, we have to get them back, some of them are in the training room getting something fixed or something taped or something else. So, it has to be a bang-bang thing. The assistants do a great job. I’ll address them first and talk about three bullet points, and every assistant has their role, how they do their position and everything else. It’s worked really well."
When Terrell Suggs and the Ravens come out of the locker room for the second half, they are the stingiest defense in the NFL, allowing just over two points per game in the final two quarters. Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports
The New York Times wrote a piece in May on the Warriors’ halftime ritual, describing it as "a high-speed 360-degree team review." The 15-minute routine features "a carefully choreographed production, featuring clips of game footage, wardrobe changes and managerial strategies straight out of business school."
Martindale has never spoken to Golden State coach Steve Kerr — "I wish I knew [Kerr]" — but the Ravens reached out to the Warriors and did extensive reading on what they did between the second and third quarters. The result: Baltimore ranks No. 1 in several second-half defensive categories, including yards per play (3.9), yards per game (123) and opponent passer rating (47.9).
Harbaugh challenges his staff to get better every day and study different aspects to improve how the coaches handle situational football.
"I think as a coach, if you’re not getting better — it’s not very good," Martindale said. "I give a lot of credit to that — on how we studied and how we looked at it and how we discussed it as a group."
Ravens safety Eric Weddle was surprised to hear that the team researched the Warriors.
“I never heard anything about that, studying halftime from an NBA game," Weddle said. "It will be interesting to see what they found out."
Last season, the Ravens were one of the best second-half teams, holding opponents to an average of 8.8 points. Their performance after halftime has been even better this year, with Baltimore limiting teams to 2.25 points.
"For us, it’s about making adjustments and just relying on the communication," Weddle said. "‘Wink’ has been, from day one, open about communication, what he expects, and honest with us. If we’re not playing well, if a guy is not in the rotation, you know why, and it’s everyone, including me. And that’s why, I think, we’ve been playing well. We play as one. There are no egos."