January 15, 2010
By David Driver
For the Deseret News
Used with permission
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last season, Salt Lake City native Haloti Ngata and the Baltimore Ravens had to adjust to first-year coach John Harbaugh, who took over for Brian Billick.
This season, the major change has been with new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. He replaced Rex Ryan, who became the head coach of the New York Jets.
"Mattison is a lot skinnier and Rex has more hair," Ngata said with a laugh.
But defensive tackle Ngata, who has been named to his first Pro Bowl, and the Ravens are making their second straight playoff appearance and consistently have one of the top defenses in the NFL.
"We are getting used to another," Ngata, a Highland High graduate, said of Mattison. "At the beginning, we didn't know what he was going to call and he didn't know us as well. We know what he is going to do now. The more time you have together, it helps."
It certainly helped last Sunday as the Ravens, playing on the road, shut down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a stunning 33-10 wild card win. Tonight, Ngata and his teammates face perhaps the other top quarterback of the past 10 years in Peyton Manning of the Colts in Indianapolis.
"I don't think we want to change too much of what we do well," Ngata said. "You get out of sync a little by doing that. I think we will do what we usually do and get to the quarterback as fast as we possibly can."
Ngata said Mattison relies a lot on a three-man pass rush.
"That puts a lot of pressure on our defensive line. We know what he wants out of us," Ngata said. "We have been more comfortable and better as a defense. Whatever he wants me to do, I am willing to do. Now we are a defense where we trust the defensive coordinator."
Ngata had 41 tackles during regular-season play. He was a first-round pick in 2006 by the Ravens out of Oregon.
"He is a difference maker for us," Eric DeCosta, the director of player personnel for the Ravens, said Tuesday. "He plays very hard. He is a great teammate. He is a difference-maker in the running game."
Other Ravens with Utah ties include reserve quarterback John Beck (BYU), offensive lineman David Hale (Weber State, Plain City) and nose tackle Kelly Talavou (Utah). Talavou had one tackle in regular-season play.
Ravens' tight end coach Wade Harman played and coached at Utah State. Bob Rogucki, the Ravens' strength and conditioning coach, held the same spot at Weber State in 1982. Craig Ver Steeg, an offensive assistant, was an offensive coordinator at Utah from 2001-02. He also helped recruit quarterback Alex Smith.