The Ravens took care of the Indianapolis Colts quickly Sunday, taking a three-touchdown lead with less than four minutes left in the third quarter.
Part of the offense’s success had to do with the unit’s efficiency inside Indianapolis’ 20-yard line, scoring three touchdowns on four trips there. But that wasn’t enough.
“I would have liked to have been four for four,” center Matt Birk said after the game. “It’s something that we can definitely get better at, and it goes back to our overall killer instinct. When we get teams down, we have to put them away. There’s no reason for us to keep it within striking distance. We certainly did a lot of good things today, good enough to win the game. But there are also a lot of things we can get better at, and we’re going to keep working and see how good we can get.”
For the season, the Ravens are just a shade below 50 percent in the red zone, scoring 22 touchdowns on 45 chances. The offense has been more effective in its last five contests, converting 10-of-17 opportunities.
The results have been somewhat rewarding considering all of the work the team puts in practice.
“It’s a point of emphasis every week in practice,” rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “It just doesn’t happen all the time on the field, and that’s the same with anything. We do a great job as a team, working on it all week in practice.
“We plan on scoring, but it doesn’t happen all the time,” he continued. “Obviously, you want to score as much as possible, and we were able to do that today.”
The Ravens scored on their first three excursions to the Colts’ red zone, sandwiching a Ray Rice six-yard gallop in the second quarter with Joe Flacco passes to Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta in the first and third quarters, respectively.
“You convert, you go down there, you give yourself a good shot, a couple shots to get in the end zone, and you execute,” said Flacco, who completed 4-of-5 passes for 18 yards inside Indianapolis’ 20. “We ran a couple simple plays, Torrey did a good job running his route and catching the football. Same thing, we were kind of able to make a play on Dennis’ touchdown. But when everybody blocks well and executes their route and then reacts well to me moving around back there, things just kind of work out. And like I said, it was just execution.”
Coach John Harbaugh credited Flacco with the offense’s success Sunday.
“The biggest thing was probably Joe,” Harbaugh said. “Joe really made some plays down there. He was able to create some plays, and those are the kinds of things we’ve seen him do more and more throughout the course of this season – more than any other year. I think that’s something that he’s building on.”
With less territory to cover, opposing defenses might have a tactical advantage when offenses cross that 20-yard line. But that should be of little consequence, Birk said.
“It’s not just one key, but certainly a little finer focus down there,” he said. “Things happen fast with the run and pass, and a lot of these teams we play have a ‘bend, but don’t break’ scheme. And they try to stop you in the red zone if they don’t stop you before. [A key is to have] a little bit better focus, and all it really means is a little bit better execution, especially on a long drive. If you get it down by [your end zone], you need to score the touchdown.”