Former Utah defenders make big impact for Baltimore Ravens
Mel Evans, AP Photo
Former Utes Paul Kruger and Ma'ake Kemoeatu have played major roles this season while keying Baltimore's Super Bowl run. Both are expected to start this Sunday against San Francisco.
Although Kruger was a standout at defensive end for the Utes, he's made his mark playing outside linebacker in Baltimore's 3-4 defense. Now in his fourth season Kruger is one of the Raven's impact players along with Corey Graham, according Clifton Brown of the Sporting News.
"(Terrell) Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata get most of the headlines for the Ravens' defense. But without Kruger and Graham, the Ravens don't make it to Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots," wrote Brown prior to Baltimore's AFC championship win over New England.
Kruger contributed four tackles in that game, but it was against the Indianapolis Colts in the first round where he made perhaps his biggest impact. In that game he wreaked all sorts of havoc with four tackles, 2.5 sacks and one key forced fumble.
In Baltimore's improbable 38-35 double overtime win over Denver he made a play that effectively ended the game.
"Perhaps his most vital play, however, came when he chased Peyton Manning out of the pocket in the closing stages of the Ravens' AFC divisional round nail-biter against the Denver Broncos, forcing Manning to throw the interception that effectively ended the game," wrote Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports.
Kruger had 46 tackles in the regular season and led the Ravens with nine sacks.
Kemoeatu has been a mainstay on the interior of Baltimore's defensive line after sitting out last season with injury and weight issues. Now in his tenth year the former Ute is playing his best football when it matters most.
The mammoth 6-foot-5, 345 lineman recorded his first sack of the year in Baltimore's final regular season game against Cincinnati.
"Everything is tweaked up just right, everybody knows where they need to be and what they're supposed to be doing," Kemoeatu told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun following the game. "Of course, it took the whole season, but I feel like the defense has got everything down at the right time to make a run."
Kemoeatu started 13 games for the Ravens in the regular season and all three postseason games. His best effort of the year may have come in the AFC Championship game win over New England where he had a season-high five tackles.
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