The Baltimore Ravens defense ranks in the top five in the NFL in the red zone and on third downs. Where the Ravens need to elevate their game is creating turnovers.
The Ravens have forced 10 takeaways this season (four interceptions and six fumble recoveries), which is better than just seven teams in the league. The area of concern is interceptions. The Ravens are known for picking off passes and recorded six in four playoff games last season alone.
Baltimore is on pace for just eight interceptions this season. The Ravens' lowest interception total for a season was 2005, when they picked off 11 passes.
How can the Ravens start forcing turnovers?
“Sometimes we’re just a little tentative,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said, via Comcast SportsNet. “I think that’s a little bit of our problem at the end of the game. You just gotta go for it. Don’t worry about making a mistake. We just need to create turnovers. That's what we're paid to do, and we just need to get it done."
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Pete Prisco of CBS Sports takes an extensive look at the Ravens' struggles in the run game. One of his big points is the offensive line doesn't look comfortable in the zone blocking scheme. "It is a scheme that takes a lot of repetitions and working together," Prisco wrote. "There are a lot of plays where you see the backside not getting blocked the right way. That is key to a zone scheme. And when they move their linemen on pulls from one side to the other, they have a hard time getting out because there is so much penetration inside."
The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston believes the Ravens are losing close games because they don't have enough playmakers. "If the Ravens had a playmaker in the middle on defense, maybe he could have caused a turnover when the Pittsburgh Steelers were gutting them in the fourth period," Preston wrote. "If the Ravens had another playmaker on offense, they wouldn't be ranked No. 13 in red zone offense."
Wide receiver Deonte Thompson could have a bigger role Sunday, according to the team's official website. "Deonte, hopefully, will continue to be a bigger and bigger part of what we do because he is so talented,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Deonte is a very good route runner. He can run all the routes outside very effectively. So, when you have a route runner, you like to get him the ball and have him make some plays for you. If people are going to play us the way they’re playing us right now, you need a route runner outside to make some plays.”
Haloti Ngata has embraced the not-so-glamorous job of being the Ravens' nose tackle. "My job here is if you're getting doubled, you hold it as long as you can so your linebacker can fill that hole and make a play," Ngata said, via The Baltimore Sun. "I never mind not having the big numbers. I think as a nose, it's just part of the position. You're going to get double-teamed more. I don't think it is tougher to make plays. [Former Ravens nose tackle] Kelly Gregg made a bunch of tackles but he was strictly a nose and understood where his help was. I think there's more attention with me in the middle than there was with some of the other guys, but it's not frustrating. It's just my job. I know what I have to do."