One of the most telling statistics during the Baltimore Ravens' three-game losing streak -- and perhaps one of the major reasons for that skid -- has been this: zero interceptions.
A year after the Ravens led the league in interceptions with 22, they have seen a precipitous drop this year. As the Ravens limp into their bye week with a 4-5 record, they have recorded just five interceptions, with none during their past four games. Since cornerback Tavon Young made a diving interception of Baker Mayfield in Cleveland Oct. 7, the Ravens have gone 19 quarters plus an overtime period without a pickoff.
"We have to get our hands on the ball more, create some plays ourselves," cornerback Jimmy Smith said last week, "and then some tips and overthrows, hopefully. ... It's good to be lucky as well."
The Ravens' cornerback group, considered the deepest in head coach John Harbaugh's tenure, has recorded a total of two interceptions, with one each by Brandon Carr and Young. The team's other interceptions are by linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker/safety Anthony Levine.
Safety Eric Weddle, who led the Ravens in interceptions in 2016 (four) and 2017 (six), has yet to record one this season.
"The opportunities are there," Weddle said last week. "We dropped a couple picks early on this season. ... They're going to start coming, and when they do, it's going to make our defense even stronger and our team better."
Secondary coach Chris Hewitt speculated that an increase in man coverage this season could factor in the decreased number of takeaways.
"When you're playing as much man coverage as we are, you have your back to the quarterback," Hewitt said. "You can't see the quarterback throwing the ball out of his hands and then be able to get a break on the ball. Now, when we do play zone coverages, and we get an opportunity to catch the ball, we have to catch the ball."
The Ravens' pass defense by most measures ranks among the best in the league. They are allowing 205.2 passing yards per game, the second-lowest in the league, and 5.28 passing yards per play, the lowest in the league. The Ravens rank fourth in the league with 48 passes defensed. But without takeaways, teams are able to sustain drives, as the Pittsburgh Steelers did during a 23-16 win Nov. 4. The Steelers had touchdown drives of nine, 12 and 15 plays in that game, and they converted 10 of 16 third downs.
The pass rush and the secondary are intricately connected, and the lack of a pass rush recently has also probably factored in the Ravens' lack of takeaways; a quarterback under duress is more likely to force a throw into coverage or make some other mistake. But since recording a team-record 11 sacks against the Tennessee Titans in Week 6, the Ravens have totaled two sacks during their past three games
"As far as with the sacks and takeaways, those things come in bunches," Hewitt said. "We still have seven games to go. I could see us being able to get on that run here in the next couple of weeks."