The Ravens have always been known for a stout red zone defense. Time after time, opponents would get to the 20-yard line and the defense would dig their cleats in and hold them to field goals or keep them off the score board entirely.
Entering Week 5 of the 2016 season, the Ravens find themselves with the worst red zone defense in the NFL, allowing opponents to find the end zone 87.5 % of the time once entering that crucial area of the field.
Against the Raiders last week, Oakland converted on all three trips inside the 20-yard line (their fourth touchdown of the afternoon was just outside – a 23 yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree).
“I thought our players did a heck of a job following the game plan,” said Dean Pees following practice on Thursday. “I thought we played them as well as we could play them, except for the passes in the red zone.
“If we can eliminate the stuff in the red zone, I think we played that team exactly like we wanted to play them.”
Pees was clearly frustrated with their performance inside the red zone.
“Sure, it’s frustrating,” responded Pees about the disappointments his defense has had on the short field. “I almost don’t know how to answer that question. What do you think? We’ve been a good red zone defense.
“They hit passes on us. I don’t know how to answer that question other than that’s disappointing.”
If there is good news about the Ravens defense, it’s that they have allowed opponents the second-fewest trips into that troublesome area.
“Here’s what stands out: Would you rather we be in the red zone more and have a good percentage or would you rather be No. 7 in the league in scoring? Which would you rather have?,” stated Pees when asked he there is a common theme to the struggles in the red zone. “I’d think so. I’m disappointed that we haven’t kept them out of the end zone, too, but it just bothers me a little bit that that’s what we harp on when our guys have busted their butts to be No. 1 in the league in defense, pretty much in every category in the Top 10 – sometimes the Top 5.
“And we have to focus on the one thing we’ve given up, but yet, we’re the second fewest times in the red zone of all the teams in the league,” added the Ravens defensive coordinator. “That’s not going to be my focus. We’re going to keep playing the red zone that we play and play it like we play it. We’re going to try to play it better.
“We’ve gotten caught in some pressure situations. Most of the time, just like the other day, we had them at third down-and-8, and we really weren’t in a pressure and we busted it. It was our mistake – that touchdown pass on the post. That should have been an interception based on the coverage we played. We had a guy that made an uncharacteristic mistake, and we just have to improve on that. I’m more disappointed that we gave up the two-minute drive than I am the other stuff.”
As Washington and their 8th-ranked offense makes the trip up I-95 for Sunday’s game, Pees is taking nothing for granted, particularly the Redskins 30th ranked red zone offense (36.8%).
“The thing that they really do well is they run the ball well,” Pees stated about Jay Gruden’s offense. “Basically, this last week, they really got it going against Cleveland. They run the ball well. They set up their play-action off the runs.
“Cousins has a great command of the offense. I think he knows where to go with the ball based on the coverages. He throws a good deep ball. He’s an accurate guy. I just think he’s a good quarterback. I think he sees everything and gets the ball out quick in the quick game. They have a lot of different things that they do, and I think he does them well.
“The fact that I think he’s got some pretty good weapons on the outside doesn’t hurt either – and a tight end that really could be a wide receiver on some teams. [Vernon] Davis, everybody kind of forgets about him because of Jordan Reed. That guy has been a Pro Bowl tight end, I believe. They have really excellent talent, and they have an excellent scheme.”
It appears all hands will be needed on deck as the Ravens will look to improve on their 3-2 overall record in the Battle of the Beltway and remain undefeated in regular season games played against the Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium.
Follow me on Twitter @sportguyRSR