OWINGS MILLS – Not much escapes from the steely grasp of the Baltimore Ravens’ stout defense.
They are ranked third in the NFL in total defense, first in third-down percentage, second in passing defense and fourth in scoring defense.
And they’ve managed to do so while only intercepting one pass this season, tying them for last in the NFL in that category with the winless Buffalo Bills.
That single interception is courtesy of All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
The Ravens are tied for 30th in turnover margin with a minus-six takeaway-giveaway ratio. With three turnovers on two fumble recoveries and Lewis’ interception, they’re tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the fewest in the NFL.
Against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens deflected eight passes with no interceptions.
"What’s the alternative? You don’t break them up? You let them complete them? Then, I’d be worried about the fact that they’re completing too many passes," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The interceptions are going to come. We had a couple that were tougher catches, but we had our hands on them. All the breakups were one-handed breakups where you stick the mitt in there and knock it down.
"We do need more turnovers. That’s something we shoot for, but I don’t think you chase turnovers. That would be to the detriment of playing good defense sometimes."
Sunday was one of cornerback Fabian Washington’s better games.
He knocked down four passes in the 31-17 win at M&T Bank Stadium.
For the season, Washington has broken up a team-high eight passes.
The former Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick played wide receiver in high school, but isn’t known for his hands even though he was recruited to Nebraska initially to play offense.
Washington has one interception since the Ravens acquired him two years ago.
"I really don’t think those were drops," Washington said. "It wasn’t just a clear drop. You can say I dropped them, but I’m not going to say I dropped them."
Harbaugh has no complaints about the play of the secondary.
Despite a season-ending knee injury to starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed on the physically unable to perform list after an offseason hip surgery, the Ravens are allowing just 156.6 passing yards per game.
Heading into the Denver game, the Ravens had the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL. They allowed two touchdown passes to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd at the end of each half.
"We have some great guys in the back end," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "We played a great game. We gave up two deep balls, two great catches by the wide receiver.
"It shows how hard we worked during the week. [Secondary coach] Chuck Pagano prepares us so well where we can just go out and be ourselves and play ball. Preparation is the key to this game."
The Ravens are allowing only 6.0 yards per passing attempt and have given up just three touchdown passes in five games.
"We’re facing new challenges each week, and I think we’re rising to the challenge every time," free safety Tom Zbikowski said. "We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing."
QUICK HITS: The Ravens have allowed only five sacks this season. "The offensive line is always going to be the key," Harbaugh said. "When you build your team, you start in the trenches. If you can’t win in the trenches, you can’t win." … The Ravens have been penalized just 30 times for 261 yards. Their opponents have committed 52 penalties for 419 yards. The Ravens have had referees working their practices throughout the season, preseason and offseason. "We work together – coaches and players and everybody – to kind of find out what we need to understand about the way the game is played and the way it’s officiated and the way the rules work," Harbaugh said. "To me, it comes down to playing fast with great technique. If you play fast and you play with attention to detail as it relates to technique, then you have a chance to play within the rules and not get called. We have done a good job of that so far this year." … During his weekly radio program, Harbaugh reiterated that cornerback Josh Wilson’s strained hamstring is regarded as a minor injury. … The Ravens’ tackling has been consistent with the exception of breakdowns against the Cleveland Browns when Peyton Hillis bulled his way forward for 144 rushing yards. "I think we’ve been a good tackling team most weeks, except probably for the Cleveland week," Harbaugh said. "I do think we’re a really good tackling defense. That’s probably one of our strengths. We are a good tackling defense, and we’ve got to make sure we do that from one week to the next. That’s the difference, really, in limiting a running game." … Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice is a finalist for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week. He rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos. He’s up against the Chicago Bears’ Matt Forte (166 yards, two touchdowns) and the Tennessee Titans’ Chris Johnson (131 yards, two touchdowns). … The Ravens are concerned about the ability of New England Patriots kickoff returner Brandon Tate. Tate has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and is averaging 33.4 yards per return. The Ravens lead the league in kickoff average. And kicker Billy Cundiff is tied for first in the NFL with Indianapolis Colts kickoff specialist Pat McAfee with 11 touchbacks "Huge challenge this week," Harbaugh said. "Brandon Tate is emerging as one of the best kickoff returners in the league. He’s a speedster. He’s got a great knack and vision. They’re being schemed up as well as you’re ever going to be schemed up with Scott O’Brien, their special teams coordinator. They’ve had two weeks to study us and work on what we’re doing, and that’s something that we’re very concerned about."