Ravens, coming off a bye, lead NFL in interceptions
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The investments that the Baltimore Ravens made in their secondary are paying off.
Their defense leads the league in interceptions. If only that translated into a few more wins in Baltimore.
Back from a bye , the Ravens hope to get picky again when they face the Green Bay Packers and young quarterback Brett Hundley on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“They’ve got a lot of different looks, a lot of different types of pressures. They’re forcing the quarterback to play with a different time clock,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They’re doing a heck of a job obviously in the passing game.”
Baltimore (4-5) has 13 interceptions, and its 18 takeaways overall are tied for second in the NFL, one behind the Los Angeles Rams.
Ravens safeties are doing a great job at disguising coverages, while cornerbacks are making plays in tight spaces, coach John Harbaugh said. Defenders have been effective in batting down balls and the pass rush is getting to the quarterback.
Safety Eric Weddle said creating turnovers was a top priority when he arrived in Baltimore after nine seasons with the Chargers. The Ravens have forced six turnovers over the past four games, but are just 1-3 in that stretch to fall three games behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
Two losses have each come by just three points. But offense has been the biggest problem.
“Once we start clicking on all three phases, we are a tough team to beat. We just have to get to that point,” Weddle said. “We still believe in each other; it’s a team game.”
That has also been the mantra of the Packers (5-4) during a trying stretch without injured star Aaron Rodgers.
Third-year backup Hundley hasn’t thrown an interception over his past two games. McCarthy is showing more trust in Hundley to take deep shots in critical situations.
“It gets his confidence going … get that pressure off him that everyone keeps talking about” winning without Rodgers, receiver Jordy Nelson said. “It’s a big aspect for us as a whole and for Brett to get that first win. Just let the momentum continue.”
Other notes and things to watch on Sunday:
LOOKS FAMILIAR: When the Ravens see Hundley, they see Rodgers. Well, technically speaking. Weddle said the pocket presence, quick throws and mannerisms look similar.
But the Packers haven’t been as productive without Rodgers, averaging about 17 points in the four games (1-3) since he got hurt on Oct. 15 against Minnesota. They were averaging 27 points in the five games (4-1) before Rodgers’ injury.
PASS-RUSHING PERRY: The pass rush finally picked up for the Packers after getting five sacks against Chicago, including three for Nick Perry. The outside linebacker doesn’t need a club anymore to protect a hand he hurt early in the season. The Packers also have more depth on the outside with veteran Ahmad Brooks returning from a back injury, and rookie Vince Biegel back from a foot injury.
JOE’S WOES: After teeing off on Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Packers will face a veteran in Baltimore’s Joe Flacco.
But production has been a problem in Baltimore. The Ravens have the league’s worst passing attack (165.7 yards) though they hope to build on the bright spot of two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the loss to the Titans two weeks ago.
“It’d be nice to get some of that stuff going early on and put some pressure on the defense,” Flacco said.
GOODE TO GO: The Packers re-signing of long snapper Brett Goode for his second tour with the team this season should make life easier for reliable veteran kicker Mason Crosby. Goode snapped for the season’s first three games before suffering a hamstring injury and reaching an injury settlement. The field goal unit has been a problem at times this season. With Rodgers out, the need to take advantage of all scoring opportunities becomes even more important in Green Bay.
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Owings Mills, Maryland, contributed to this story.