Monday, January 6, 2014
Ravens' defense sets unwanted team record
By Jamison Hensley
Much of the blame for the Baltimore Ravens failing to make the playoffs will fall on the offense. The Ravens gained few yards on the ground, threw too many interceptions, and didn't produce enough touchdowns in the red zone.
But the Ravens' defense has to be held accountable as well, especially for the late collapses in games. The Ravens allowed 134 points in the fourth quarter, the most in team history.
This eclipsed the 130 points allowed in the fourth quarter in 1996, the Ravens' first year of existence. This is also 52 more points than the Super Bowl team gave up in the fourth quarter in 2012.
Inside linebacker Daryl Smith is at a loss for why the Ravens gave up so many points at the end of games.
“I wish I knew. If I knew the answers, we would have benched all of that," Smith said. "Just unraveling, I guess, toward the end, and not being able to get off the field, make the play that we need to make, or miscommunication. I mean, hey, it was a number of issues that came up over the season, and that hurt us.”
The Ravens' downfall in the fourth quarter came in the second half of the season:
- In Week 10, the Ravens gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter to the Bengals including a 51-yard Hail Mary pass to A.J. Green.
- In Week 13, Baltimore allowed 13 points in the fourth quarter to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and only escaped with a 22-20 win by stopping a two-point conversion with 63 seconds reamaing.
- In Week 14, the Ravens watched the Minnesota Vikings score 20 points in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns in the final 1:27.
- In Week 17, the Ravens gave up the final 17 points in the game at Cincinnati after tying the score at 17.
Only two teams gave up more points in the fourth quarter than the Ravens this season: the Cleveland Browns (145 points in fourth quarter) and Dallas Cowboys (138).
The Ravens shouldn't be lumped in with these defenses. Baltimore gave up the 12th-fewest points in the NFL this season, and the Browns and Cowboys ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense.
It was strange to see the Ravens defense play solid for three quarters and fall apart when the team needed it the most. In the first three quarters, the Ravens had the sixth-best defense in the red zone (allowing touchdowns 48.4 percent of the time). In the fourth quarter, the Ravens had the fifth-worst defense inside the 20-yard line (66.7 percent).
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in early December that solving these fourth-quarter issues wouldn't be a "hard fix." But the Ravens never did correct this problem.
In the final eight games, the Ravens gave up 82 points in the first three quarters and 98 points in the fourth quarters. So, more than half the points scored on the Ravens in the second half of the season came in the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh dismissed the notion that the defense was tired at the end of games.
"I don’t know that I saw signs of our defense wearing down," he said. "I’d have to probably look at that. I haven’t looked at it from that perspective. I didn’t think of it in those terms. I thought our defense was pretty stout right to the end."