The Ravens didn't just stop the Jacksonville Jaguars' momentum. Their defense stole it.
Despite giving up 421 yards of total offense, the Ravens put their stamp on the milestone comeback victory yesterday by forcing four turnovers.
The defense created two of them in the fourth quarter, leading to 10 points and turning a four-point deficit into a 32-26 Ravens lead. Last year, the Ravens had three turnovers in two meetings with Jacksonville.
"I thought we had a chance to take advantage of getting the ball back," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "It was one of the things that maybe saved us today when we didn't play our best football."
Trailing 26-22, the Ravens received one of their biggest breaks on the Jaguars' first series of the fourth quarter.
After defensive tackle Tony Siragusa stood Jacksonville running back Stacey Mack at the line of scrimmage, weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper finished the play by crashing into Mack's back to pop the ball out. Then, while lying face first on the ground, Sharper completed the play by corralling the fumble with his left arm at Jacksonville's 13-yard line.
Two plays later, the Ravens scored on a 12-yard pass from Tony Banks to Jermaine Lewis.
"Marvin has worked on us a lot causing fumbles in training camp," Sharper said. "We're used to trying to make things happen."
Said Marvin Lewis: "I think what happens when you are comfortable in what you're doing and you're going after the football, those plays come about."
The Ravens' defense wasn't done.
On the next Jaguars series, free safety Corey Harris tipped a pass intended for receiver Jimmy Smith, deflecting it high in the air, where strong safety Kim Herring pulled in his first career interception. After Herring returned it 30 yards to Jacksonville's 35-yard line, the Ravens converted that turnover into a field goal to push their advantage to 32-26 with seven minutes left.
The Ravens had struggled to get their hands on Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell's passes all game, but Harris was using advice he had received earlier in the game to break up that throw.
In the first quarter, Herring described a route to Harris that the Jaguars had run for Smith. So when Harris, who was replacing injured Rod Woodson at free safety, saw Smith run that same pattern in the fourth quarter, he knew when to break on the ball.
It was the Ravens' second turnover in a span of four Jaguars offensive plays.
"I saw the same formation and that was the first thing that popped in my head: Watch the six route," said Harris, who ended the game with an interception. "Sure enough, I wasn't guessing but as soon as he made the cut, I just believed in what I saw. I just went and got the ball."
The turnovers were a product of training camp.
Marvin Lewis emphasized that he wanted last year's second-ranked defense in the league to focus on not only making the tackle but stripping it. It appears Sharper was listening.
After just one forced fumble in his previous 49 games, Sharper did it twice yesterday.
Sharper isn't alone, though, as the Ravens have caused five fumbles in two games. It's a higher pace than last year, when they forced 24 fumbles in 16 games.
"You can be a good defense by not giving up many yards," said Sharper, who finished with five tackles.
"But when you start making turnovers, you help the offense. That's what we did today."