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With Top-Notch Aerial Attacks Looming, Ravens Aiming for Interceptions

The Ravens are going to give up some plays in Atlanta this Sunday. That's just a fact, nothing to be ashamed of.

Of course, that's not the mentality that they have. Leading the league in yards allowed per game (295.4) and second in passing yards surrendered per contest (203.3), Baltimore's defense is still one that fights for every inch.

But this Sunday, they go against the league's leader in passing yards, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and NFL leader in receiving yards, wide receiver Julio Jones. They are one of the best 1-2 combinations in football.

So how does Baltimore's defense turn the tables? They have to make some plays of their own. Turnovers will be key this weekend in Atlanta.

"We want them every game, but especially against top offenses, you need turnovers," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "Turnovers are going to be huge. They're going to decide the game for us."

Smith pointed to the Ravens' Week 7 game against the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens recovered a fumble at the end of a 20-play drive, which was a huge momentum swing early in that game.

"Think about two turnovers, the difference that would have made [in that game]," Smith said.

The Ravens' last interception came in Week 5 in Cleveland. There have been 234 passes thrown against Baltimore's defense since then without one of them landing (and sticking) in the Ravens' hands.

Part of it is bad luck. They've had a number of tipped balls that have fallen harmlessly to the turf. Another is opponents have emphasized a quick passing game instead of trying to push the ball deeper down the field. The Ravens also play a lot of press coverage, so cornerbacks' eyes are more on their receiver than the quarterback.

"With the short passing game and screens and everything else that we've faced, and they're getting rid of the ball quick, it's hard to get a takeaway," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said.

But whatever method the Ravens use, they want to change the end result.

"We've been itching," said cornerback Tavon Young, who got the Ravens' most recent interception when he dove to pick off the Browns' Baker Mayfield. "It's coming this week. It's coming this week."

It's not going to be easy considering Ryan has done a good job protecting the football. His five interceptions are tied for the third-fewest among NFL full-time starters. He's throwing just one per 86.8 attempts. The Ravens also don't want to start overcompensating and get out of position.

"Obviously we want interceptions, but we're not going to go out of our way to do that," Smith said. "We're going to play the scheme. But hopefully some tips and overthrows will come our way."

The scenario will be similar next week too when the Ravens travel to Kansas City to face quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' bounty of explosive weapons. Baltimore's defense will yield yards, but could counter with turnovers. Mahomes has thrown 10 interceptions.

The Ravens got a sack-strip returned for a touchdown Sunday in a 34-17 win over the Oakland Raiders. It wasn't an interception, but the Ravens are hoping it's the start of a run on turnovers.

"Do I think they're going to come in bunches? I've been telling you that since Day One – yes, I do," Martindale said.

"They're cyclical. It'll happen. When is it going to happen? I can't tell you that. It all depends on where you're at defensively when that time hits. There's just a lot of series of events involved with it. Like, I think we took advantage of the last one we got. 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] did; he looked like Ed Reed."

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