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Don’t say it too loud, but the Ravens could set a new franchise-low for turnovers this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals if they continue to take care of the football.
Heading into Sunday’s matchup at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens have committed 18 turnovers (nine interceptions, nine fumbles) and are still under the team-record 21 Baltimore coughed up in 2008.
“I’m going to go find me some wood [to knock on],” running back Ray Rice said with a laugh. “But one thing I’ve said to myself, and I said at the beginning of the year, [was] that I wasn’t a fumbler. I’m used to carrying the ball. You’ve just got to be conscious of situations that you’re in.”
Rice’s reliable hands are a major reason the Ravens’ turnovers are down.
After losing three fumbles as a rookie and one last season, Rice hasn’t put a ball on the turf through 15 games.
The fact that Rice has 350 touches – he leads the Ravens in both rushes (287) and receptions (63) – shows how much trust Baltimore’s coaching staff has in the diminutive playmaker.
“If you know you don’t have to fight for the extra yard, or if you need to go down, put two hands on it,” said Rice. “We’ve all made an effort to protect the football. I wouldn’t say it’s a goal; it’s my job to protect the ball.
“If you’re making a cut, sometimes it’ll get loose. But in traffic, you will find it tight to my body – as tight as possible. It’s sort of almost like putting the ball in a headlock in a different kind of way. Running with it, you’ve got to get naturally used to running with the football, and it becomes instinctive.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco also made tremendous strides in maintaining possession.
Flacco has only tossed a career-best nine interceptions this year, even completing 137 consecutive passes without a pick from Oct. 10 to Nov. 11, a mark that is third-longest in franchise history. His nine giveaways are tied for 10th in the NFL among quarterbacks.
But the Bengals, and specifically cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, will be a test for Flacco.
In Week 2 at Cincinnati, Flacco threw four interceptions. Flacco also lost two interceptions in each of the two Bengals games from last season.
“They’re definitely really good [cornerbacks],” Flacco said. “You see tough ones week-in and week-out, but these guys have done a great job against us. They’ve done a good job of getting a little bit of pass rush on us. And those corners have done a great job of being tight on the guys and making the lanes and the space for throwing very tight.”