4. There is enough of a sample size to say that the Ravens' struggles to move the sticks on third down are officially a troubling trend, but they converted when it mattered Sunday.

When the Ravens got the ball back with 4:31 left in the game, it seemed unlikely they would be able to grind out two first downs, wind down the clock and escape Arrowhead Stadium without having to make a final stand on defense. At that point, the Ravens had moved the chains just once on their nine plays on third down -- and that came on a five-yard defensive holding penalty on Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt -- a troubling trend that has plagued them throughout this young season. But when they most needed to deliver on third down, the Ravens got it done and got out of there with a 9-6 victory. The first conversion came with a higher degree of difficulty, but the second was also an encouraging sign that they may be straightening out their short-yardage issues. On the first series of downs, the Ravens faced a 3rd and 15 after quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked by Tamba Hali. Flacco lined up in the shotgun, but when his receivers were unable to shake man coverage, Flacco cued up the music from "Chariots of Fire" and started to scramble toward the sticks. He slid down 16 yards later after making his most important play of the game with his legs instead of his rocket right arm. After running back Ray Rice ran for nine yards on two carries, the Ravens needed to pick up just 1 yard on third down to secure the win, but that final yard has been tough to grind out this season. The Ravens kept the ball in the hands of their best player, and Rice ran off right tackle through a small crease between fullback Vonta Leach and tight end Ed Dickson. He dove horizontally toward the marker through a crowd of meaty legs, hovering above the turf like a high-priced sports car hydroplaning through a busy intersection. It was a first down and the first time in 2012 that the Ravens ended the game with a successful four-minute drill. Still, despite those two huge conversions down the stretch, the Ravens have converted on just 19 of 57 third-down plays, and their 33.3 conversion percentage puts them in the bottom third of the league. In four of their five games, they have converted a third of their third-down attempts or less. They have failed both running the ball and throwing it, and they have failed in short-yardage situations and from way downtown. The point is that each drive stalled for a different reason, and there is no one thing that they can do to correct this problem besides calling the right plays and executing them, which is easier said than done. Credit the Ravens for executing when it mattered most, but if they had moved the chains more often earlier in the game, they never would have been in that situation in the first place.
Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore Sun
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