OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't mince words when asked why his defense has had so much trouble delivering the knockout blow in the fourth quarter this season.
"Finishing on defense has been our biggest issue," Harbaugh said.
In the past five games, the Ravens have allowed 54 points in the fourth quarter. Only three teams -- the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings -- have allowed more in the fourth quarter during that span.
Two weeks ago, the Ravens nearly watched a 12-point lead disappear after giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter. On Sunday, Baltimore gave away the lead three times in the fourth quarter, allowing 20 points in the final 14 minutes, 22 seconds.
Harbaugh expressed concern over this disturbing defensive trend, but he doesn't lack confidence when it comes to changing it.
"To me, that's not a hard fix, that's just something we have to put our mind to and get it done," Harbaugh said.
It's strange that this is even a problem in the first place. The Ravens have allowed the eighth-fewest points in the NFL, giving up 20.1 points per game. Something just happens in the fourth quarter, and it may be a case of wearing down or losing focus.
In Week 10, the Ravens held the Cincinnati Bengals to three points in the first three quarters before giving up 14 points in the fourth quarter, which included a 51-yard Hail Mary pass to A.J. Green. In Week 13, Baltimore limited the Steelers to seven points in the first three quarters before allowing 13 points in the fourth quarter. And on Sunday, the Ravens held the Vikings to six points in the first three quarters before watching them explode for 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Over the past five weeks, a stretch in which the Ravens have won four times, 60 percent of the points scored against their defense has come in the fourth quarter. During this stretch, the Ravens' defense has allowed one touchdown in the first three quarters and five in the fourth quarter.
"That's something we have to be better at," Harbaugh said of finishing in the fourth quarter. "There are things we're looking at in practice, things we feel like we can emphasize in practice a little bit more and try to put them in certain situations to create the emphasis to just do the right things in those situations. For us, it really comes down to execution, in terms of assignment and technique. I think we're a very good, sound defense -- assignment and technique-wise -- throughout the course of the game and really throughout the course of the season. In those situations, we haven't been as good as we have the rest of the time. That's something that we've got to clean up."
The Ravens are on pace to give up 110 points in the fourth quarter. That would be the third-most in team history, ranking behind the defenses in 1996 (130 points) and 2010 (119).