Ravens are going to need touchdowns if they want to extend their season

December 17, 2013|Mike Preston

It would appear the Ravens are heading into trouble because they struggle scoring touchdowns inside the red zone. The latest display came Monday night when the Ravens had to settle for six field goals from Justin Tucker to defeat the Detroit Lions, 18-16.

Logic dictates they'll have to score several touchdowns with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady coming to town Sunday and the Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Andy Dalton waiting in Week 17.

But in the modern era of the NFL, nothing is logical. The goal is to eventually get better, but you live game by game, and the key word for the Ravens from this point is survival.

Long live Justin Tucker.

"Every play was a fight, and it was just good that we finished at the end," Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda said of the win against Detroit. "Obviously, we want to score some more touchdowns than six field goals, but we can't be picky at this point down the road."


Maybe a decade or so ago, the Ravens would be flirting with disaster in their failures inside the red zone. Even before the six field goals by Tucker, they had scored only 22 touchdowns on 41 possessions inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

But once you break down the Ravens offense, you understand what is going on. The Ravens would prefer touchdowns, but field goals aren't so bad, either.

Most good teams can run the football inside the red zone, but that's a no-no for the Ravens. They don't have a dominant running back. Yanda, fellow guard A.Q. Shipley and center Gino Gradkowski are small, and the Ravens aren't going to overpower most teams with a strong running game, which is why there have been so many short-yardage failures this season.

And look at their outside receivers. Both Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith (Maryland) are speedy but get neutralized inside the 20-yard line because the field becomes smaller.

Here are some other things to consider: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco might be Mr. Clutch, but he isn't Mr. Accuracy. Inside the red zone, passes aren't just thrown, but placed or located. That's not a strength of Flacco's, and that tighter field forces him to think quicker.

He isn't Mr. Cerebral either. The entire team continues to suffer communication breakdowns inside the red zone, from knowing whom to block to checking out of a running play to a passing play.

It has become comical at times. Field goals have become treasured.

"I don't know," Flacco said when asked about the Lions' red-zone defense. "They played a lot of zone. We just didn't do a good enough job. Kind of got a little scared there at the end of the half to take a shot to Jacoby [Jones]. Couldn't tell where the safety was, but I probably had him though just from looking at the picture. I can't remember the other drives and plays that we ran off the top of my head, but you know, obviously they did a good job and we probably didn't do a good enough job."

The Ravens will tinker with a few things before they face the Patriots on Sunday. Against Detroit, they added a few wrinkles and used more of the field to attack than at any other time this season. They ran some quick receiver screens, hitches, slant-ins and crossing patterns, and even went deep a couple of times.

But that was outside the red zone. Inside, there isn't much more they could have done differently except try the fade to tight end Dennis Pitta on the outside. A few picks would help. Or maybe they might need to turn Flacco loose, more like Brady or Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.

You have to give Detroit some credit. The Lions are physical and have a dominant front four. The Patriots don't have that type of defense. In fact, the Patriots have no defense, allowing 372.7 yards per game, including 132.5 rushing. Brady is still Brady, but his cast of Smurf receivers doesn't scare anybody. Brady doesn't make anyone shake here in Baltimore anymore, either.

Manning posted big numbers against the Ravens earlier in the year, but the Ravens have improved. Like New England and the Indianapolis Colts, Denver has struggled on defense as well.

So despite what history says, there is no way of telling the Ravens they can't where they want to go with Tucker as the Most Valuable Player. They have won five games by three points or fewer this season, and Tucker has converted at least four field goals in four games and connected on three in two others. Logic suggests the Ravens will need more, but where was all of that logic in that crazy finish against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14?

Where was that logic Monday night when Tucker booted the 61-yard game-winner?

Nothing makes sense in this league anymore.


Long live Justin Tucker.



Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.