Defense struggling to force turnovers

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

December 11, 2007|By EDWARD LEE SUN REPORTER

As pressed as the Ravens might be about avoiding turnovers, the defense might be nearly as anxious about forcing them.

Less than a year removed from forcing opponents into committing 40 turnovers - the third-highest total in franchise history - the Ravens find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The team has registered 18 takeaways this season and is on pace to finish with 22- which would tie the franchise low set in 1996, the organization's inaugural season.

"When it goes bad, it's going bad," defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said of a defense that has forced just five turnovers during the team's franchise-record seven-game losing streak. "It's just tough. We've got to keep working."

The issue can be attributed to several problems. Injuries have sapped the season-opening defense of 17 games, and defensive end Trevor Pryce was lost for the season three weeks ago with a torn pectoral.

A pass rush that has generated just 25 sacks has not induced opposing quarterbacks into making poor decisions. And the offense's NFL-worst 35 turnovers have put the defense on a short field, inhibiting the unit's ability to take risks and cause turnovers.

But as important as getting takeaways is, coach Brian Billick said he does not want the defense pressing the issue.

"Everybody wants to make a play to impact the game, but by the same token, you have to stay within structure," he said. "It's their job to stop an offense and get the ball back and create turnovers. But ... a defense has to stay within structure because if you break structure and try to make that big play, then you also leave yourself vulnerable."

Injury updates

The team still was awaiting word on results from magnetic resonance imaging tests on cornerback Samari Rolle (shoulder) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee).

Billick seemed optimistic about Ngata, saying, "The fact that he finished the game is a good sign."

Billick didn't rule out tight end Todd Heap for the rest of the season, saying, "Todd will try to give it a go this week."

Switching lines

When the defense lost Ngata on the fourth play of the game, the coaches inserted 6-foot-3, 305-pound offensive lineman Chris Chester at defensive tackle for a few plays.

"When you take a Chris Chester and throw him in on the goal line, you hope that the body will kind of swell up and get big and try to make a play," Billick said. "There's not going to be much strategy or tactic involved. It's put a big body in there, and he happened to be the big body that we had. And we practiced with Chris to give him a sense of it if we got to that. "

Pittman `disappointed'

With injuries costing the secondary starting cornerbacks Rolle and Chris McAlister (strained knee), David Pittman saw extended action against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night and was a frequent target.

The team's third-round pick in 2006, Pittman was beaten on two long touchdown passes.

"I let the ball get over my head," Pittman said after the game. "I'm disappointed in the way I played tonight. I just have to take it on the chin and just try to learn from it."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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