One of the few areas in which the Ravens have been consistently good this season is in their red zone, where they usually send opponents back to the sideline with three points and their tails between their legs.
The Ravens are second in the NFL in red-zone defense this season, allowing touchdowns just 26.3 percent of the time. At 22.2 percent, only the Kansas City Chiefs have been stingier inside their 20-yard line.
Red-zone defense was one reason the Ravens were able to hang around with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday’s 19-16 loss. The Steelers entered the red zone three times and came close to their 20-yard line on two other possessions. But Pittsburgh’s only touchdown came in the first quarter, and it took three plays and a clever Ben Roethlisberger shovel pass to tight end Heath Miller for them to get in the end zone.
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Asked this week why his defense was so successful in the red zone, defensive coordinator Dean Pees attributed it to a combination of three things -- scheme, swagger and a lack of space for offenses to operate.
Pees said that he believes the Ravens have a good system in place when it comes to the red zone, and he said his defenders know the system like the backs of their hands.
“I think we are fairly multiple down there, maybe more so than other teams in some ways,” Pees said. “We do a lot of things with coverage and with front, not necessarily all blitzes or anything like that. I think we’ve got a complex red area package, and I think guys do it very well.”
He said his Ravens don’t get rattled when opponents enter the red zone, especially after “sudden-change” plays such as turnovers or, ahem, failed onside-kick attempts.
“It’s like anything else. If you have a sense of confidence in something, you seem to play it better,” Pees said. “I think our guys aren’t afraid of the red zone. I think some teams get down there and are kind of like, ‘Oh man, what are we going to do?’ I don’t think we have that mentality at all.”
And finally, the lack of space for offenses is pretty obvious. Without the fear of getting beat deep, the Ravens can crowd the line of scrimmage and take more chances.
Pees says those three factors combined have been the difference for a Ravens defense that has allowed just five red-zone touchdowns -- and none at M&T Bank Stadium.