Ravens fail at passing turnovers

Ravens notebook

Team has 0 interceptions since last Titans game

NFL Week 9

November 11, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

It hasn't reached the proportion of the "Dust Bowl" - Art Modell's description of last season's touchdown drought of five games - but the Ravens' defense hasn't intercepted a pass in the past four games. That's been a contributing factor in the turnover ratio of minus-seven at the midpoint of the season, compared to plus-13 at the same juncture in 2000.

"We need some," coach Brian Billick said. "We've had opportunities, had the ball in a position to make an impact. The good thing is, we're in position to make a play. We've said they're going to start coming to us, and they are."

Even 36-year-old, near-certain future Hall of Famers have gotten impatient as the Ravens' defense has sought a return to its dominant play of last season. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago, Rod Woodson had a clear lane to his right when he dropped a Mark Brunell attempt over the middle. Woodson and Ken Houston share the NFL record for interceptions returned for touchdowns, and Woodson started counting his 10th too soon.

"You have to concentrate on getting the football in your hands, and I was definitely taking off before I caught mine," Woodson said. "When you get impatient and try to make interceptions happen, that's when they don't happen. You just have to read your progressions, and play with the defense. If you do that, it will come."

Duane Starks had the Ravens' last interception, when he picked off Steve McNair in the 26-7 rout of Tennessee at PSINet Stadium on Oct. 7. The Ravens have six interceptions in eight games, compared with 23 last season, when they led the NFL in turnover ratio.

One more homecoming

Corey Harris starred at Vanderbilt from 1988 to '91, and Nashville is his adopted hometown. When the Ravens went there for an AFC divisional playoff game in January, he was an emergency starter in place of the injured Kim Herring. Now, he's established himself at strong safety and is the Ravens' fifth-leading tackler.

"Playing in front of family and friends makes it fun," Harris said. "It's a big game, because Tennessee always plays tough, and we always play tough. The Titans could be 0-7 or 14-0, and when they play the Ravens, it's going to be a 15-round heavyweight fight. Anyone who thinks differently is mistaken."

It didn't take long for the Titans-Ravens rivalry to become one of the more heated in the NFL, but with realignment in 2002, this will be the last divisional game between the two.

"I don't know if anybody is focusing on that, but we ought to be," Billick said. "Anytime you take away a rivalry, even though it's in its infancy, I'll miss it."

Steady Stover

Despite a strained quadriceps muscle, kicker Matt Stover has been steady under pressure. His first attempt of the season was a 46-yarder against Chicago that went off the right upright, but since then he's made 13 straight field goals, improving his career success rate to 81.4 percent, fifth best in NFL history.

"I haven't had a lot of long field goals, but most of them have been important recently," Stover said. "I had that understanding that this was going to be a year when you have to kick a lot of pressure field goals. Keep us in games and win games, that's been my mentality all year. I have that mentality every year, just more so now."

Point, counterpoint

Harris and Ravens third-year cornerback Chris McAlister have different takes on tomorrow night.

McAlister: "I've been in the Super Bowl. Monday night is just Monday night. It's a big-game setting like the Super Bowl, but nowhere near on the same level. It's not going to have that much of an effect on our emotions."

Harris: "It's an opportunity for a lot of guys. Guys don't talk about things like that, but contracts are up and the stage is set. Every coach, every scout, he doesn't have to take a plane. He can stay home and watch the Monday night game. Put it on your resume. If you do your job, everything else takes care of itself."

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