No Touchdowns Off Turnovers For Ravens' Defense
ONLY SIX FIELD GOALS ALLOWED SO FAR
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- A rather innocuous sequence in last week’s loss at Atlanta truly showcased the kind of pride the Ravens have in their suddenly-beleaguered defense.
Trailing by 10 points early in the third quarter, the Falcons took possession on the Ravens’ 39 after a Joe Flacco interception. Another touchdown at that point would have put the game practically out of reach and squashed any comeback hopes, but Atlanta signal-caller Matt Ryan, who would turn out to be the Falcons’ savior after rallying his team with 65 seconds to go, gained just six yards on three subsequent pass plays, defended well by the Ravens’ patchwork secondary.
The home team settled for a field goal, and the Ravens trailed 13-0 instead of 17-0 and were never hopelessly out of the game after that.
The Ravens may be 6-3 and leading the AFC North division, but with a minus-1 turnover ratio, they have had to rely on their post-turnover defense to keep afloat. As in Atlanta, the team has yet to surrender a touchdown after a giveaway and has allowed only six field goals following offensive miscues, as good a reason as any the team has stayed in games.
"It's fun for me, of course, but you don’t like to see turnovers," cornerback Josh Wilson said. "But for us, it’s like, 'Oh, man, we got to get this ball back.' We’ll take everything they got (on offense).
“When the defense gets a turnover for the offense, that’s the greatest momentum shift in the building. That you can bring that momentum right back, that can kill a team. If you can get a turnover off another turnover, that team is like 'What else can we do?'"
All told, the Ravens’ red-zone defense is fourth in the NFL, yielding just nine touchdowns in 23 opponents’ trips inside their 20. Only Tennessee, Arizona and Miami have been better as far as percentage is concerned, and only New Orleans has allowed fewer red-zone six-pointers (eight).
To date, one of the season’s most telling sequences came in the third quarter of the win at Pittsburgh in Week Four. With the Ravens nursing a 10-7 lead in the third quarter, the Steelers twice took over in Baltimore territory following an interception and a fumble. In those two possessions, Pittsburgh went three-and-out each time, attempting a total of three runs and three passes.
Kicker Jeff Reed perhaps sealed his eventual release by missing field goals on both occasions, leaving the Steelers behind and eventually in a loss on a last-minute Flacco touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs made three tackles during those two crucial series, and he acknowledged the usual defensive intensity is turned up even higher when the other team takes over in Baltimore territory.
"You just can’t let them score. It’s more of a need to stop them," Suggs said. "Now, we really got to stop them cause we turned the ball over on our side (of the 50-yard line), so a little more attention to detail comes into play. I hope that don’t happen this week (at Carolina)."
Not likely considering the Panthers have the second-worst turnover ratio in the league at minus-10, throwing a co-NFL-leading 14 interceptions. If anything, Carolina should worry about turnovers in their own half of the field.
But the Ravens aren’t exactly living in clover as far as that stat is concerned, slipping back into red numbers with two giveaways at Atlanta and pushing their season-long ratio to minus-1.
"It's an emphasis, as it should be," head coach John Harbaugh said. "I think it speaks to the fact that we have a good defense. Our guys don't cave in -- ever. We make mistakes, we don’t play things right all the time. The Cincinnati game put us behind the eight-ball a bit. But [in Atlanta], if we hadn’t been minus-2, we would have won that game. We need to win the turnover ratio."
Leave it to linebacker Ray Lewis to address what the real bottom line is: "The biggest thing is that we just keep stacking up [wins]. All of that will come with it. [You can’t] get caught up in those numbers. We just have to keep playing football and everything is going to roll out the way it’s going to roll out."
The points-off-turnover statistic was brought up quite a few times around the Ravens’ locker room Wednesday. However, there’s another Suggs wanted to discuss even further.
"The stat of the day is that we haven’t beaten Carolina in the regular season," he said. "That hurts."
So far, the Ravens have been lucky to avoid getting hurt on their side of the 50. They can only hope their good fortune, as well as the pride they have in their defense, holds up for another seven games.
WHERE ARE BRIAN AND GOOSE?: Judging by the weekend assignments they were given, it seems Fox game analyst Brian Billick was promoted, and sideline reporter Tony Siragusa demoted.
Billick and play-by-play man Thom Brennaman are heading to New Orleans for the game between two winning teams, Seattle (5-4) and the Saints (6-3). The Seahawks have had an up-and-down personality this year, but they should be competitive against the Saints, whose offense is nowhere near as potent as it was last year.
Siragusa, and booth partners Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston, drew the short straw, getting the game between a pair of last-place, 2-7 teams in the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys are coming off a coaching change and a subsequent 33-20 pounding of the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East, but Detroit has been a more consistent team this year, staying competitive with nearly every opponent.
Speaking of that division, the Sunday-night game between the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles will have ex-Loch Raven High and Towson State punter Sean Landeta working in the Westwood One radio booth.
TRIVIA TIME: If the Ravens win at Carolina this Sunday, they will be off to a 7-3 start for only the second time in team history. In what year have they done this before?
ANSWER: The only other time the Ravens got off to a 7-3 start, the season ended in the most disappointing finish in team history.
The 2004 campaign began rocky enough with a 2-2 split culminating in a last-minute home 27-24 loss to Kansas City featuring a Dante Hall kickoff return for a score. Adalius Thomas had been offsides on the first kickoff, necessitating a re-kick.
But the Ravens kicked into gear with a Sunday night win at Washington just before the bye week, then a 4-1 spurt after the idle Sunday, during which the team moved into the Palace at Owings Mills.
The only loss in that stretch was the Halloween defeat at Philadelphia during which Terrell Owens mocked Ray Lewis’ pregame dance, but the Ravens were 7-3 heading into a difficult stretch run.
A mud-splattered loss at New England followed before the game that truly defined the season, the 27-26 home loss to Cincinnati, the only game in the Brian Billick era in which the Ravens lost a 17-point lead. A 2-2 finish after that left the team out of the postseason.
Posted November 17, 2010
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