Ravens still losing turnover battle, games

OWINGS MILLS -- Multiple elements have been missing from the last-place Baltimore Ravens' season of discontent. With victories and touchdowns such rare commodities for the Ravens (3-7) heading into Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals (7-3), there's yet another critical shortcoming.

Unlike previous campaigns, the Ravens have been unable to take away the football. Out of 32 teams, the Ravens rank 29th in turnover margin with a minus-11 ratio.

Even with Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed primed to miss his sixth consecutive game, this is a surprising development. The Ravens have intercepted only five passes.

Since the Brian Billick era began in 1999, the Ravens rank third in the NFL with 194 takeaways and are tied for second with 114 interceptions. All of which makes this decline even more inexplicable.

"We're still not getting the turnovers the way that we're used to," said Billick, whose teams are 46-3 when they win the turnover battle. "That needs to happen. When Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati in Cincinnati, a lot of it had to do with turnovers. So, that's a lot of the formula for beating them."
The Bengals lead the NFL with a plus-20 turnover ratio, including 21 interceptions with a combined 10 between cornerbacks Deltha O'Neal and Tory James.

They faltered, though, against the Steelers in a 27-13 loss on Oct. 23 as quarterback Carson Palmer was intercepted twice and the Bengals were limited to one interception.

The turnover battle is critical for every team, but especially for Baltimore which has a smaller margin of error considering they rank last in scoring with 11.6 points per contest.

Not surprisingly, the Ravens are 0-5 when they have a negative turnover ratio and 2-2 with a positive or even turnover ratio.

"Somehow without gambling and putting us at risk, we've got to go get the football," said cornerback Samari Rolle, who hasn't intercepted a pass. "It's something we're always striving for and when our hands touch the football, we need to catch it. We've let too many get away from us."

Cornerback Chris McAlister has intercepted one pass despite having a team-high 13 pass deflections. He has dropped at least four potential interceptions.

"Certainly, we're an aggressive defense," Billick said. "We have good secondary people. You would think that would yield more turnovers."

When the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, they had a plus-23 turnover ratio.

When they won the AFC North title two seasons ago, Baltimore was plus-3.

Even last year when the Ravens lost four of their last six games to finish 9-7, they were plus-11 in turnover margin as Reed set a team record with nine interceptions en route to winning NFL

The Ravens have studied the turnover issue, but haven't come up with any concrete observations on why they haven't created the turnovers the way they're accustomed to.

"That's a tough one," Billick said. "Now we've dropped a couple, but I don't know if that accounts for the dramatic change in the numbers of our turnovers than we had in previous years.

"I don't know if you can quantify it. We'll look at it, but I don't know if we'll have a legitimate answer for why turnovers haven't come our way. That's not much of an answer, saying it's just a matter of fate."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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