BALTIMORE (AP) There is little margin for error at this point in the season for the Detroit Lions, who face a team Sunday that thrives on its opponent’s miscues.
The Baltimore Ravens (6-5) lead the NFL with 18 interceptions and 26 takeaways. They have three shutouts, and last Monday forced Houston quarterback Tom Savage into three turnovers in a 23-16 victory .
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown six interceptions and lost six fumbles this season. If the Lions (6-5) are to stay in the playoff hunt, Stafford must protect the football.
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”They rally to the ball,” Stafford said of the Ravens. ”The ball gets tipped in the air, and it doesn’t seem to hit the ground much when they’re playing. So, they’re doing a nice job of turning it over. They get after the passer. They stop the run. They’re tough against the pass. I mean they’re just a really, really solid defense.”
Led by 35-year-old Terrell Suggs , the Ravens own the league’s seventh-ranked defense. Suggs has 9 + of Baltimore’s 30 sacks, including a pivotal strip-sack in the fourth quarter against Houston.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator when Baltimore won the Super Bowl in 2012. Suggs was a member of that team, and to Caldwell, it seems as if the outside linebacker hasn’t lost a step.
”He’s one of those guys where he’s taken great care of his body,” Caldwell said. ”He’s diligent about everything that he does in that regard, and besides that he’s just an unusual cat physically. He’s a big, powerful man that can still run.”
As it stands now, the Ravens are the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. Detroit took a step back in the NFC with its Thanksgiving loss to Minnesota, which ended a three-game winning streak.
”You get to this time of year, and all of the expectations and pressures are ramped up. That’s what makes it fun,” said Stafford, who intends to make his 108th consecutive start despite twisting his ankle against the Vikings.
Baltimore safety Eric Weddle said: ”This is a huge game for them and us. It is going to be a playoff atmosphere. It is win or go home.”
Some things to know about the first meeting between the Lions and Ravens since 2013:
BUSINESS TRIP: Though he spent two memorable years as a Ravens assistant coach, Caldwell dismissed the notion that his return to Baltimore will be a nostalgic experience.
Been there, done that.
”We had a preseason game there last year,” Caldwell said. ”I have been back, so I have had a chance to kind of go through it, seeing a lot of different people and those kinds of things.”
NO OFFENSE: The Ravens are in playoff position and striving for a third straight win despite carrying the league’s 32nd-ranked passing game. Joe Flacco (nine TD passes, 11 INTs) has yet to have a 300-yard game.
The way Flacco sees it, his job description has changed because the defense is playing so well.
”You do what you have to do to win football games, especially in the second half when we get up on teams and our defense is turning the ball over,” he said. ”You get to a point in the game where it is like, `All right, we have this game won unless we do something crazy.”’
COMING FROM BEHIND: The Lions have been outscored 73-30 in the first quarter this year. Last week marked the first time the Ravens won a game after falling behind.
Clearly, getting off to a fast start is important.
”Sometimes you get in a little bit of a rut . You got to battle your way out,” Caldwell said. ”We’ve just got to find a way to get ourselves where we’re consistently good.”
RUN OFF: Detroit has gone 63 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. The last time it happened was on Thanksgiving 2013, when Reggie Bush hit triple digits.
”If you win football games you hear less about all that kind of stuff, if you lose football games you hear more about it,” Stafford said. ”Everybody on our team is fighting tooth and nail to make every play a huge success, whether it’s a run or a pass.”
SHORT WEEK: The Ravens will be playing for the second time in seven days, while Detroit hasn’t seen action since Thanksgiving.
”They get a little more rest, and that’s the nice thing about a Thursday game,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. ”I’m sure that’ll help them to some degree.”
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