Ravens win with turnovers, cautious approach

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' aversion to risk, a foundering passing game and a history of winning with a positive turnover margin are the primary reasons behind their conservative approach while leading.

Over the last two games -- both wins -- quarterback Kyle Boller has thrown a total of six passes after halftime for one completion.

In the Ravens' 20-6 victory Sunday over the Buffalo Bills, he attempted three passes in the second half for no completions as Baltimore generated only 17 yards of total offense in the second half.

Yet, Baltimore (4-2) managed to maintain a lead built largely behind an opportunistic defense that produced five turnovers, four interceptions, four sacks and three goal-line stands.

Having a plus-4 turnover ratio and winning is a fairly predictable formula. And the Ravens have won 34 consecutive games are 41-2 overall since Ravens coach Brian Billick's tenure began in 1999 when the team has fewer turnovers than their opponents.

The Ravens' lone turnover Sunday was a first-quarter fumble when Boller was sacked, and it led to a Buffalo field goal.

"It's a huge part of what we are," Billick said. "Turnovers, well-documented, are the No. 1 determinant in a game. When you have that ratio, you're going to do well particularly the way we jumped up the way we did in the first half."

By halftime, nickel back Deion Sanders had already intercepted Bledsoe once on a 48-yard interception return for a 10-3 lead that was enough for a winning margin.

The Ravens' passing game is ranked last in the NFL, averaging 107 yards per contest as Boller has compiled a 61.8 passer rating. Baltimore converted only 4-of-13 third downs against Buffalo and punted six times out of 12 offensive possessions.

"Three-and-outs are killing us," offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said.

The team isn't inclined to change much to create more passing opportunities for Boller, not with a veteran team whose coach proclaimed them a Super Bowl contender before the season.

Now, the Ravens are likely to face the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles (6-0) without Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden (pulled hamstring) and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap (sprained ankle) in addition to suspended Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis.

The Ravens' defense ranks seventh overall, allowing 288.8 yards of total offense per game and only three rushing touchdowns.

"We played to the profile," Billick said regarding the Buffalo game. "There are a lot of things we can do differently and we'd like to do differently and play better in certain situations, but it fit our profile. We can continue with that profile, and we're going to do it.

"To some people that may not be enough and they'll be upset with it and you're going to continue to irritate me and throw league stats at me, but that's OK as long as we fit the profile. There are going to be times when we're going to need to do more and we'll step up and be able to do so when that happens."

NOTES: In federal court in Atlanta on Monday, Angelo Jackson essentially contradicted language contained in Lewis' plea bargain to using a cellular phone to facilitate a drug transaction. He alleged that the Ravens' Pro Bowl runner was expecting to receive $4,000 in a cocaine deal that was never consummated four years ago.

In Lewis' plea, he claimed "that at no time during these events did he possess cocaine, intend to possess cocaine, provide any money for the purchase of cocaine or expect to receive any money from the sale of cocaine."

Lewis was about to sign a $35 million contract at the time of this episode. The allegation isn't expected to affect the Raven star's plea agreement.

With Jackson's guilty plea to drug conspiracy charges, Lewis, who has one game left on his two-game NFL suspension for violating its substance-abuse policy, won't have to testify at a trial that was set to begin Monday. …

Sanders is the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes. His touchdown return was also nominated for NFL Play of the Week.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and RavensInsider.com

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