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The Difference in Ravens-Browns? Turnover, Turnover, Turnover, Turnover

Posted Dec 17, 2017

Baltimore got two interceptions and two fumbles Sunday that led to 14 points and put the Ravens defense back atop the league in takeaways.

Though they’re winless, the Cleveland Browns are a team with talent.

They’re tough on defense and they have some offensive playmakers that challenged Baltimore’s defense Sunday. The Browns had a second-quarter lead and momentum on their side.

But one of the big differences between the Ravens and Browns is turnovers, and they made all the difference in Baltimore’s 27-10 win.

After not getting a takeaway last week in Pittsburgh, the Ravens defense got back to its thieving ways and got four turnovers – two interceptions and two fumbles – in Cleveland.

One, an outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith sack/strip in the end zone that was recovered for a touchdown, was the biggest play of the game. The final, a fourth-quarter interception by cornerback Brandon Carr, essentially sunk the dagger into the Browns.

Afterward, Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked if he found his team getting turnovers at precisely the same time he was asking for them.

“Sure,” he said. “If every time I say, ‘Get a turnover,’ and we get one, then you would be like, ‘Why doesn’t he ask for them more often?

“It’s been an emphasis and our coaches have done a good job, but turnovers happen because you play hard and you’re in the right spot and you do things well. They throw them to you and you catch them.”

Entering Sunday’s game, Cleveland’s 32 giveaways led the league by a large margin. Baltimore’s 29 defensive takeaways were second in the NFL behind Jacksonville, but the Ravens are now back on top with 33 (the Jaguars have 31).

Veteran safety Eric Weddle kicked off the party by hauling in an overthrow by Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Terrell Suggs put pressure on Kizer from the outside and the rookie airmailed his throw as he stepped forward.

It’s Weddle’s sixth interception of the season, putting him one behind league leader Darius Slay of the Detroit Lions. It’s the second-most interceptions of his career (he had seven in 2011).

With the Ravens leading, 10-7, Baltimore’s defense came up with another big sequence to separate themselves from the Browns. Running back Duke Johnson Jr. took the checkdown, but was crushed by inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, while Tony Jefferson helped pop the ball loose for safety Anthony Levine to recover.

Three plays later, the Ravens extended their lead to 17-7 on a 33-yard pass to tight end Benjamin Watson. The Browns were still within striking distance at 17-10 at halftime. That is until Smith got a long-awaited sack.

The third-year outside linebacker, who entered with just 1.5 sacks in his last 24 games, came off the edge and sack-stripped Kizer in his own end zone. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams jumped on the loose ball to score a touchdown and give Baltimore a commanding 24-10 advantage.

“You gotta get it before it done get got, and I got it before they did,” Williams said. “I’m just happy my teammate ‘Z’ hit it out of his hand and I was able to make a play on it. That’s just how our defense is. We play off each other.”

Carr’s final interception was the icing on the cake for a dominant performance. Kizer threw into multiple defenders and Carr made the easy grab in the back of the end zone and tapped his feet before going out of bounds.

Carr’s four interceptions are the second-most on the team and tied for the most of his 10-year career (2011).

“Brandon Carr obviously being in the right spot, stopping that drive at the end, that kind of sealed the game for us,” Harbaugh said. “That was a big play for us.”

It’s a lesson in how tough the Ravens are to beat when they get turnovers and don’t give them up. The Ravens have won every game this year in which they’ve come out on the positive side of the turnover margin.

“You win the turnover battle, your team has a better chance of winning,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said in the understatement of the day.

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