After watching Ravens lead league in takeaways, opponents adjusting game plans this season

The Ravens led the NFL in takeaways (17) and turnover differential (plus-5) last season, putting together one of the best statistical seasons in franchise history. This fall, they have only seven takeaways and a minus-4 turnover differential, tied for 21st and 23rd in the league, respectively.

The dramatic contrast has contributed to the team’s 4-4 record. In the Ravens’ four wins, they have forced four turnovers and enjoyed a plus-1 differential, but they have only three turnovers and a minus-5 differential in their four losses.

While noting that opponents have tended to be especially cautious with the ball, perhaps because of the defense’s reputation, coach John Harbaugh said the team has to be more proactive in causing turnovers.

“We haven’t made plays on the ball all the time like we need to, and sometimes the ball hasn’t gone our way,” he said Monday afternoon during his weekly news conference. “We haven’t caused very many fumbles, and we haven’t gotten our hands on as many balls as we did last year. So we’ve got to find a way to do that. I’m disappointed in that. That’s something that we need to do better. We’re minus-4. You can put it right on that if you want. If we’re not minus-4, what’s our record? If we’re ever, if we’re plus-4, what’s our record? It’s probably completely flipped. So it’s a big part of it.”

The defense still leads the league in sacks with 27 after getting 11 in a 21-0 shutout of the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 14, but it got only one combined in back-to-back losses to the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. Harbaugh said those two teams adjusted their game plans to blunt the pass rush.

“Yeah, people are playing completely different,” he said. “We’re not getting too much drop-back pass [plays]. People aren’t going to drop-back-pass and just let us rush the quarterback in coverage. So I think that’s the main thing. The game plans we’ve gotten in the last two weeks have been very different than the ones we’ve seen on tape — within the realm of what those teams do. But much more skewed toward exotic-run game-type stuff, I guess — play-action pass, boots, waggles, exotic motions and things like that to kind keep us off balance and not let us play downhill. We’ve got to adjust to that. I think part of that is, we’ve got to play with discipline. We’ve got to play with discipline across the board in terms of assignment, controlling the edge, eyes where they’re supposed to be.”

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