Just when you thought it was impossible to make the Chicago Bears defense look like ballhawks, along came the Ravens last Sunday in Baltimore.
In their 27-24 overtime win, the Bears had not one, not two, but three takeaways. Yes, the Bears.
The same Bears who set a franchise-record low for takeaways in 2015 (14), broke that with an NFL-record low 11 last season and had only three through five games this season.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw two interceptions. He enters Sunday’s game at U.S. Bank Stadium with eight interceptions and a 66.1 passer rating that ranks 31st, one spot ahead of Browns rookie DeShone Kizer.
But a look at Sunday’s interceptions shows why Ravens coach John Harbaugh is more upset with his receivers than he is with the former Super Bowl MVP quarterback.
Third-and-four at the Baltimore 44. Ravens trail 3-0 with 3:54 left in the first half: Receiver Breshad Perriman finds a soft spot in the defense up the right sideline. Flacco delivers the ball right to Perriman’s hands 23 yards downfield. The ball bounces off them as Perriman gets clobbered by the safety. Bryce Callahan dives for the deflected ball, makes the interception, gets up and returns the ball 52 yards. The ensuing two-play, 20-yard touchdown drives gives the Bears a 10-0 lead. Making matters worse: Perriman suffered a concussion on the play and has missed the first two days of practice this week.
Second-and-10 at the Chicago 30. Ravens trail 17-13 with 5:08 left in the fourth quarter: Backup receiver Chris Moore is lined up wide right. He is seeing more action because starter Jeremy Maclin was inactive (shoulder) and another starter, Perriman, was concussed. Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is playing off coverage at six yards from the line of scrimmage. The Ravens motion left and run play-action that way. Flacco rolls right and throws 15 yards downfield to Moore. It wasn’t the prettiest pass. And it wasn’t one of those well-placed, back-shoulder deals that you see the great ones deliver. But Moore should have caught the ball. It hit him in the chest area. And he probably could have done a better job coming back to the ball, which would have helped prevent Fuller from playing the ball and the man perfectly. The ball deflected another five yards down the field. Adrian Amos grabbed it and weaved 90 yards the other way for a pick-six.
This week, Harbaugh was asked why the Ravens didn’t throw more deep balls, as they had in a win over the Raiders the week before.
“It is a combination of things,” he said. “[The Bears] were playing [deep coverage]. There were deep calls. There were deep shots taken. We dropped on that turned into an interception, and we dropped another comeback that turned into an interception. Those are things that when you throw the ball, you have to execute. It is one thing to take the punches; it is another thing to land the punches.”
On paper, the Ravens look impressive with a plus-2 turnover ratio that’s the same as the Vikings’ ratio. But the Ravens have struggled the past four games.
In their first two games — wins over the Bengals and Browns — the Ravens had 10 takeaways, including eight interceptions, and three giveaways. They were plus-7 and 2-0.
But in their past four games, they’ve gone 1-3 while posting a minus-5 turnover ratio (nine giveaways, four takeaways).
Meanwhile, the Vikings are 3-1 in their last four games with a plus-3 turnover ratio (eight takeaways, five giveaways).
It’s not all Flacco’s fault. He needs help.
A look at the Ravens’ injury report makes you wonder how much help he’ll have. There are 16 players on the injury report. Nine are offensive players. Four are receivers.
Maclin is still limited. Perriman hasn’t practiced yet this week. And the other starter, former Viking Mike Wallace, did not practice Thursday because of a back issue.