Even coming off one of the Ravens' better efforts in getting off the field on opponent's third downs, defensive coordinator Dean Pees cited it Thursday as a need for improvement on a Ravens defense.
"Last game, I think it was 38 percent," Pees said, citing the 49ers five third-down conversions in 13 attempts. "It wasn't quite as bad, but the one that really bothered us was we really had made an emphasis all week to not let [49ers quarterback Colin] Kaepernick out, and he had a big third-down conversion. Even though we got them stopped [later], he had a third-down conversion down in the red area where he escaped on us."
Third-down defense has been an issue for the Ravens for most of the season. In Week 1, Denver Broncos converted on 44 percent of their tries (8-of-18). The Oakland Raiders converted on 64 percent (9-of-14), then the Bengals converted on 53 percent (8-of-15) in Week 3. Sunday's 38-percent mark was the second-best of the season, but that's only around the league average.
And even when it's good, big plays cancel them out, as Pees mentioned.
He lamented, in a game in which they lowered opponent's third-down success rate slightly from 49.4 percent to 47.8 percent, the third-down play when cornerback Shareece Wright fell down and allowed an easy touchdown reception for 49ers receiver Quinton Patton.
That 47.8 percent success rate ranks second-to-last in the NFL, and just as with every other aspect of the Ravens' 25th-ranked defense, the handful of costly errors are blemishes no one can look past.
"I feel like I'm standing up here, broken record," Pees said. "It really isn't so much about them. it's about how we play. We have to play well, and we cannot give up big plays. It's a broken record, but until we quit doing that, statistically, we're going to look terrible. ...
"I watched that game and I feel like for 51 plays, we're playing the run game pretty well against a good running team in San Francisco, playing the short game, then you give up three plays which is the difference in the game. Until we quit doing that, it's going to be the same old story. We've just got to keep fighting it, and keep the ball inside and in front of us. It is not rocket science."