The San Diego Chargers' defense forces the Baltimore Ravens to kick four field goals from inside the 20-yard line.

The errant pass from quarterback Joe Flacco on third down skidded across the ground late in the fourth quarter Sunday as the Ravens squandered another prime red-zone opportunity.

When kicker Justin Tucker connected on a 31-yard field goal to briefly boost the lead to six points, it repeated a costly pattern for the Ravens during their eventual 34-33 loss to the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium.

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The Ravens settled for field goals instead of the touchdowns they needed to keep pace with Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who answered the field goal by manufacturing a game-winning touchdown drive. On Sunday, the Ravens went 3-for-7 in the red zone --  the area between the 20-yard line and the end zone.

Whether it was their inability to pound the football into the end zone, Flacco holding it too long in the pocket and receivers not getting open or the blockers not creating enough push, the Ravens' red-zone failures were a major reason why they lost a crucial AFC game that held major playoff implications.

"That was huge," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "It was the difference in the game. We wouldn't have had to worry about them scoring at the end of the game. The defense wouldn't have been under pressure like they were, and we have to take responsibility for that."

The setback left the Ravens shaking their heads afterward and taking inventory of what happened. Entering Sunday, the Ravens ranked 15th in red-zone offense with 22 touchdowns on 41 red-zone scoring opportunities.

"Their defensive line, they came off the ball very well and they made it very tough in the red zone and on the goal line for us to get a lot of push," Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "Those are things we stress and things we have to do better. I think it was a key factor, us not scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

"I was talking to some of the guys and it's a weird feeling because it felt like we were in control of the game the whole time. We were moving the ball. For us not to win this game at the end, it's a weird feeling. For us to get better, we know what we have to do. We have to score more touchdowns."

That was a problem the Ravens never solved on a consistent basis. Despite facing a team that entered Sunday ranked 26th in red-zone defense, having allowed 20 touchdowns to opponents in 31 red-zone possessions, the Ravens' offense was stonewalled throughout the game.

The problems started in the first quarter when the Ravens failed to capitalize on an interception by middle linebacker Daryl Smith. The Ravens only came up with two yards on a completion to wide receiver Steve Smith on 3rd-and-3 at the Chargers' 12-yard line, ultimately settling for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.

"We were prepared for everything, the coaches did a good job of getting the game plan ready," offensive tackle Eugene Monroe said. "We just have to be able to punch it in when we get down there, it's as simple as that. Long story short, we've got to be better."

That was a problem the Ravens never solved on a consistent basis. Despite facing a team that entered Sunday  ranked 26th in red-zone defense having allowed 20 touchdowns to opponents in 31 red-zone possessions, the Ravens' offense was stonewalled throughout the game.

"Obviously, it made a difference," tight end Owen Daniels said. "They actually weren't very good of a red-zone team defensively. They're a good defense, but not quite as good down there in the red zone. So, we've got to take a look at some stuff obviously."

The problems started right away in the first quarter when the Ravens failed to capitalize on an interception by middle linebacker Daryl Smith. The Ravens only came up with two yards on a completion to wide receiver Steve Smith on 3rd-and-3 at the Chargers' 12-yard line, ultimately only getting a field goal and a 10-0 lead out of the red-zone shot instead of a touchdown.

"We were prepared for everything, the coaches did a good job of getting the game plan ready," offensive tackle Eugene Monroe said. "We just have to be able to punch it in when we get down there, it's as simple as that. Long story short, we've got to be better."

In the second quarter, Flacco threw incomplete to running back Justin Forsett on third down at the Chargers' 3-yard line as the Ravens wound up kicking another field goal. That happened again later in the second quarter. Instead of owning a commanding halftime lead, the Ravens led 16-10.

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"Nothing crazy," Flacco said when asked what it was about the Chargers' defensive schemes that affected the Ravens. "Definitely early on in the game, we would have liked to come away with touchdowns and we obviously didn't. They played their defenses, and probably would have liked to run the ball a little better than we did in those situations so we could have got some chunks and turned them into touchdowns."

The Chargers didn't run anything particularly exotic. They just played hard-nosed defense, and the Ravens failed to execute the play calls of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

"It was a mixture of things, it wasn't anything complicated," Steve Smith said. "They didn't do anything to trick us. You just have to go out and make plays."

That was precisely what the Ravens were incapable of doing, though.

They couldn't shove their way into the end zone. They didn't convert short passes. With the exception of Torrey Smith scoring on a pair of short touchdown passes and Flacco scoring on a quarterback sneak, the Ravens' red-zone offense was ineffective.

“We didn’t execute the way we needed to,” said Forsett, who rushed for 106 yards and reached the 1,009 rushing yards for the season, but didn’t score a touchdown. “For whatever reason, whether it was attention to detail, we weren’t on it down there in the red zone. “Looking back at it, I take it personal. We have to finish with the ball in our hands.”

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