Red zone defense keeping Ravens in games

Red zone defense keeping Ravens in games
October 15, 2013, 11:00 am
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As the Ravens offense continues to spin its wheels, one factor has kept the Ravens in virtually every game: its top-rated red-zone defense.

The Ravens held the Packers' high-powered offense out of the end zone on all four Packers trips in the red zone on Sunday, and through six games Ravens opponents have scored touchdowns on 25 percent of red-zone chances. That ties the Ravens with Kansas City as the league's stingiest red-zone defense.

Granted, those numbers on Sunday include the Packers' one-play field-goal drive at the end of the half, and Aaron Rodgers' kneel-down at the end of the game, but the bottom line is that the Ravens tough defense has been at its toughest with its back to the wall.

It's nothing new.

Last season, the Ravens ranked second in the league in red zone defense, allowing a touchdown 43.4 percent of the time. (That was in the regular season. It doesn't count their greatest red-zone stand ever, on the 49ers final possession of the Super Bowl.) The Ravens ranked No. 1 in red zone defense two years ago (38.1 pct.) and have been in the top five for nine years in a row.

And this year, the Ravens need it more than ever. It's pretty simple math: Holding an opponent to zero or three points instead of seven has become monumental with the offense having so much trouble putting points on the board.

The Browns had first-and-goal at the 7-yard line on their opening drive but were held to a field goal. A touchdown there might have changed the complexion of a game the Ravens ultimately won, 14-6, after being held scoreless in the first half.

The Ravens also made a big red zone stop at Miami, holding the Dolphins to a field goal in a game the Ravens ultimately won by three, 26-23.

The Ravens this week face a Steelers team that has had all sorts of trouble converting in the red zone. They have scored touchdowns on 38.5 percent of their trips inside their opponent's 20-yard line; that ranks 31st in the league, ahead of only Jacksonville.