In 33 years of coaching football, Dean Pees has heard a lot of ideas and theories. One that continues to make him chuckle is the notion that defenses hone their ability to create turnovers by practicing tip drills.
“It always kills me when I hear guys commentating on TV talking about strip drills and tip drills. ‘Oh, they practice that every day.’ We haven’t practiced a tip drill in 20 years,” the defensive coordinator said during his weekly media briefing Thursday. “I mean, come on. I mean, first of all, who wants to go out and teach a defensive guy to tip it? Don’t you want to teach him to catch it? I’m going to go out and teach a guy how to bat the ball? I don’t think so.”
It was a humorous preamble to Pees’ response to a question about the defense’s knack for collecting takeaways. With 12 turnovers thus far, the Ravens rank fourth in the NFL in that department, trailing only the Chicago Bears (17), the Atlanta Falcons (14) and the New England Patriots (14).
The team could add to those numbers this Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys visit M&T Bank Stadium. Dallas has coughed up the football 11 times, including eight via interceptions which is tied for the second most in the league.
Pees said those numbers don’t matter nearly as much as the mentality the defense must exhibit on the field.
“[I]f you’re hustling to the ball and you’re tough and you’re hitting hard, the ball’s coming out. That’s the key thing,” he said. “When you watch teams that really are good at getting turnovers, there’s a lot of guys around the football. It’s just like the other day [Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs] when they fumbled on the 1-yard line. Take a look at that picture and see how many heads are in there. You’ve got [defensive tackle] Haloti Ngata in there, [nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu is] in there. [Free safety] Ed [Reed] ends up scooping it out of the back and stuff, but they’re all in there. Same thing when that one ball got tipped. By their receiver, there’s three DBs around. If everybody’s running to the ball and playing hard, good things are going to happen to you and it’s usually turnovers.”
Pees ended his observation by returning to the idea of tip drills. “I had to say that about the drills,” he said with a smile. “It always just slays me. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and have probably practiced two tip drills in my lifetime and that was when I played high school.”