Head Coach John Harbaugh stressed the importance of protecting the football going into Sunday's game with Kansas City.
He pointed out how the Chiefs hardly ever give up the ball, and are also are one of the league's best teams at forcing turnovers. That has been the catalyst behind their current winning streak, and they proved that again Sunday with their 34-14 victory over the Ravens.
Kansas City's opportunistic defense forced three turnovers, and scored 14 points, while the Ravens couldn't come up with a takeaway.
"For us, the story of the game, basically, is turnovers for touchdowns," Harbaugh said. "That's the No. 1 thing."
The turnover problems started early for the Ravens. With the game tied at 7 in the first quarter, running back Buck Allen fumbled on Baltimore's second possession. Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch picked up the football to return it for a 73-yard touchdown, and the Chiefs led the rest of the way.
Quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw a 90-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter to salt away the possibility of a comeback.
"You don't win football games when you turn the ball over. If any team this year should understand that, it's the Baltimore Ravens," Harbaugh said. "Until we learn that lesson – we can play as hard as we want, we can be as physical as we want, we can be as tough as we want, we can play some pretty darn good football – but, if you turn the ball over, you're not going to win."
The impact of turnovers was on full display Sunday. The Ravens outgained the Chiefs by 89 yards and had 19 first downs compared to Kansas City's 15.
But the turnovers negated key drives by Baltimore, and the Chiefs turned those miscues into points.
"The turnovers are the difference," Harbaugh said. "We are turning the ball over at an extraordinary rate. And that is just why the record is what it is. It's that simple. Do I have any theories? Yeah, you look at each specific situation and judge it for what it is. But the bottom line is we're not taking care of the ball like we need to."
The disparity in turnovers goes far beyond a one-game trend for the Ravens. Their defense has forced the fewest interceptions in the league (four), and they rank second worst with a minus-15 turnover margin.
Compare that to Kansas City, which has a plus-15 turnover margin this year. That has been the difference in the Chiefs rattling off eight-straight wins since starting the season 1-5, and the Ravens going 3-5 since they started the year with the same record.
"We have to find a way to play winning football," Harbaugh said. "If you're a young player, and you want to stay in this league, you have [to have] a team that understands how to play winning football. The Chiefs understand that. The Ravens have not gotten there this year, yet. We'll keep fighting to get there."
Forcing turnovers is sometimes a matter of luck or good bounces. The Ravens came close to getting a pair of them Sunday –an interception and a fumble recovery – but both opportunities were just out of their reach.
Harbaugh pointed to the interceptions as a specific area that needs to improve.
"That's something that has to be addressed. We have to find a way to create more interceptions and our guys will keep working at that," Harbaugh said. "It's the way you build your defense. It's where you keep your eyes. It's being in the right place consistently. Creating a little momentum, probably. Creating pressure on quarterbacks."
The turnovers have proven especially costly for the Ravens the last month of the season. In the four games since Joe Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury, defenses have scored 28 points against the Ravens.
Quarterback Matt Schaub threw four interceptions, including a pair of pick-sixes, in his two starts. Clausen has now thrown three interceptions in his two starts, including one pick-six.
"The biggest thing is just taking care of the ball whether it's the fumble or the two interceptions that I had," Clausen said. "You're not going to win games turning the ball over. That's just a factor."