Despite strong finish, Ravens defense on pace to set dubious record

November 02, 2015 | Luke Jones

The Ravens defense was far from perfect in Sunday’s 29-26 win over San Diego, but the struggling unit could take satisfaction in a strong fourth-quarter performance.

Despite surrendering another big play — this time a 70-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd late in the third quarter — and allowing the Chargers to go 7-for-10 on third downs through three periods, Dean Pees’ defense buckled down in the final 15 minutes, allowing just 72 yards on 15 offensive plays and making stops on all three of San Diego’s third-down attempts.

Holding the Chargers to a game-tying 49-yard field goal with 2:29 remaining in game, the Baltimore defense left Joe Flacco and the offense enough time for a game-winning drive that culminated with a Justin Tucker 39-yarder as time expired. San Diego’s 371 yards were the lowest total allowed by the Ravens since Week 4 and the third-lowest total given up by Baltimore this season.

“With a win, everything is great, but we’ve still got to go back and work on some things,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith, who cited that the secondary played extensive man coverage on Sunday. “We gave up a huge play too easily, and that could change a game against a team on another night. Those are kind of the things I’m looking at right now. But like I said, we won, we’re happy. We’ve got work to do.”

In addition to eliminating the big plays, the Ravens must figure out ways to force turnovers as Sunday marked the fifth consecutive game without a takeaway. Baltimore is tied with Dallas for the fewest takeaways in the NFL with four, but the 2-5 Cowboys already had their bye and have played only seven games so far.

The Ravens’ last takeaway came in the fourth quarter of their Week 3 loss to Cincinnati when Elvis Dumervil stripped Andy Dalton of the football and C.J. Mosley returned the fumble for a touchdown. Counting overtime, 22 periods of football have passed since the Ravens last created a turnover.

Having forced 40 or more turnovers in a season three times — 2000, 2003, and 2006 — in franchise history, the Ravens are currently on pace to set the NFL record for fewest takeaways in a non-strike season. The Washington Redskins own the record with just 12 in 2006, a season in which the Ravens forced 40 turnovers on their way to the best regular-season record in franchise history at 13-3.

Interestingly enough, the 1982 Baltimore Colts forced only 11 turnovers in an abbreviated nine-game schedule that came after a players’ strike. The Colts finished 0-8-1 in their penultimate season in Baltimore.

Even if the Ravens are able to pick up the pace in the takeaway department to avoid making NFL history, they have a long way to go to match the franchise-worst mark of 22 takeaways set in 1996 and matched last season. Baltimore also had only 24 takeaways in 2013, the fifth-lowest mark in franchise history.

The Ravens defense must eradicate the big plays that have been back-breaking in several close losses this season, but creating a few more turnovers would go a long way in finding a few more wins in the second half of 2015.