Defense again can't make key stops late

Defense again can't make key stops late
November 3, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Flacco talks about Cleveland's pressure, interception

The Ravens have relied heavily on their defense for many years. It's been their strong point, calling card and the thing that other teams feared the most. But this season, even though the defense has played well at times, they haven't been able to get key stops in the fourth quarter. 

That happened again on Sunday. The Browns got possession on their 29-yard line with 6:44 left, clinging to a three-point lead. But the defense not only couldn't stop the Browns, they couldn't get the ball back until 14 seconds remained after Cleveland kicked a field goal that locked up a 24-18 victory. 

The defense needs to make stops in situations like this to help the offense. The Browns made four first downs and kept the Baltimore offense off the field.

Haloti Ngata appeared to make a big play when he stopped former teammate Willis McGahee for no gain on third-and-1. The Browns then gambled and went for it on fourth drown with quarterback Jason Campbell completing a short pass to keep the drive alive. They later kicked the field goal.

This has become a problem for the Ravens. It's the fourth consecutive game the defense couldn't make key stops in the fourth period.

"You've got to get off the field," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the post-game press conference. "We played good defense the whole game, for the most part. We're good enough to get that stop there. We have to get that stop, and we haven't done it [a few] games in a row." 

The Steelers' late drive set up a game-winning kick in the last game two weeks ago. Green Bay ate up much of the fourth quarter in its win over the Ravens the week before that. Miami put together a furious late drive that gave it a chance for a very long field goal that would have sent the game to overtime -- but the kick missed.

This is an issue that the Ravens certainly want to correct sooner rather than later.