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Ravens Not Happy With Defensive Performance Despite Getting Five Turnovers

Posted Sep 17, 2017

A week after getting five turnovers in Cincinnati, the Ravens defense returned home to get five turnovers against the Cleveland Browns and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.

The Ravens defense threw around the word “historic” this offseason when talking about its potential. It took just two weeks for it to come to fruition.

The Ravens defense notched five turnovers in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history in Sunday’s 24-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. It’s also the first time any Baltimore defense has grabbed four interceptions in consecutive games.

The Ravens are just the third NFL team since the 1970 merger, and first since the 1992 Pittsburgh Steelers, to record at least four interceptions in each of the season’s first two games.

So, no, it wasn’t just that Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was that bad last week in a 20-0 loss. This year’s Ravens defense is that good.

The Ravens picked off Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer three times and got Kevin Hogan once while Kizer was on the sideline with a migraine. For the second straight game, veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs came up with a sack/strip.

Yet, after the game, reporters didn’t get the reaction they were anticipating. Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was pleased to see that his defense was “hacked off” after the game, angry about the yards and points it allowed.

“We still have not played our best football,” Suggs said. “We can be better. We did some things that we don’t do. We are mad at ourselves. A win is a win, but we expect more out of ourselves.”

The Ravens surrendered just 221 yards to the Bengals in Week 1. The Browns put up 386 yards against Baltimore’s defense in Week 2.

“We made too many mistakes, too many blown coverages, too many big plays as a defense, so we are not happy about the performance we had,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We let those mistakes creep in, and if we don’t fix them, it’s going to hurt us down the road.”

As much as the Ravens want to lament their mistakes, they made up for them with timely turnovers. As Weddle said, they “clutched up.”

Suggs started the parade by blindsiding Kizer on the Browns’ second offensive possession when the rookie held on to the ball too long. Suggs shed Browns tackle Shon Coleman and hit Kizer from behind, jarring the ball free. Fellow outside linebacker Matthew Judon pounced on the loose ball, setting up Baltimore’s first touchdown.

Weddle came up with Baltimore’s first, and most spectacular, interception of the day. The Browns were threatening at the Ravens 26-yard line when a pass went off the hands of running back Duke Johnson Jr.

Weddle made a heads-up play by adjusting and hauling in the ball with one hand as he fell to the turf. It’s Weddle’s first interception this season after leading the team with four (tied, C.J. Mosley) last year.

“One-handed pick was awesome,” Weddle said. “We had a combo. I was able to read the guys and go make a play. It was a huge play.”

The Ravens’ second interception was the most crucial. Baltimore had a 7-point lead in the waning minutes of the first half and the Browns were marching, threatening to either tie it at halftime or make it a tight game.

That’s when rookie second-round pick Tyus Bowser dropped into coverage and came underneath Hogan’s pass, just as Judon rocked the backup quarterback. Bowser’s interception was followed by a long Buck Allen run and 2-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin, giving the Ravens a 14-point halftime lead that ended up being the final margin of victory.

“That was a dramatic shift of momentum there,” Harbaugh said. “[Bowser] was the reason for it.”

The Ravens got two more interceptions in the fourth quarter as the Browns desperately tried to get back into the game.

Cleveland marched to the Ravens’ 7-yard line, but veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb picked off Kizer in the end zone to end the threat. Kizer’s pass was well behind his intended target, Rashard Higgins, and Webb took advantage for his second interception of the season.

Playing slot cornerback after injuries to Tavon Young (knee) and Maurice Canady (knee), Webb hadn’t logged two interceptions in a single season since 2013.

It’s a similar story for Carr. The last time the veteran cornerback, who the Ravens added in free agency this offseason, notched at least two interceptions in a single season was 2013. Now Carr has two in two games after sealing the win by picking off Kizer with six minutes, 21 seconds left.

Webb, Carr and others gave credit to the pass rush up front. The Ravens only got three sacks, but had near constant pressure on Kizer and Hogan. Judon’s blast on Hogan is a prime example of how the front and back end are working in tandem to produce turnovers.

“The quarterbacks we face can’t hold the ball in the pocket,” Carr said. “They don’t have a lot of time to sit there and pat the ball. All we’re asked is to see the ball.”

The Ravens are now already plus-seven in turnovers. They have 10 turnovers on defense and have given up three on offense. That’s a recipe for wins.

But how long can this turnover spree last?

“We practiced this stuff, but nobody really does that type of stuff consistently,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Not saying we can’t, but … it’s great, but some teams are going to take care of the ball a little bit better.”

Harbaugh had a different outlook.

“I would just say we’re right on schedule,” he said with a smile. “Let’s keep it going.”