Of the many dismal numbers the Ravens offense must absorb in the days counting down to Sunday's road game against the Minnesota Vikings, one of the more galling statistics is the unit's futility in the red zone.

The team has scored a touchdown on only eight of 18 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line for a 44.4 success rate that is tied for fourth worst in the NFL. That percentage would be the franchise's lowest since the 2007 team converted only 42.2 percent of its chances.


"We look at where we're at, and we're not happy with it," wide receiver Chris Moore said. "So we need to put up points to help our defense. We're not scoring enough points on offense. So we're just going to keep working."

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This past Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears shined a spotlight on the offense's woes in the red zone. The unit failed to reach the end zone on both trips, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns that would've sent the Ravens to Minneapolis with a 4-2 record and a brighter outlook.

Instead, the players and coaches have been peppered this week about the inability to score touchdowns. And they seem to be almost as puzzled as outside observers.

"It's frustrating," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "I think people have kind of been frustrated throughout the year so far. We just haven't for whatever reason been able to click on all cylinders."

The team's struggles inside the opponents' 20 are even more glaring when the microscope is focused on the passing offense, which has accounted for four of the eight red-zone scores. The Ravens have passed for five touchdowns overall. Only one team has thrown fewer passing touchdowns this season.

So what is the problem? Quarterback Joe Flacco has not been as sharp. Inside the opponents' 20 through the first six games, he has completed only 37.9 percent of his passes (11 of 29) for 60 yards and three touchdowns, has been sacked once, and was flagged for an illegal forward pass that negated an 8-yard touchdown to wide receiver Mike Wallace in Sunday's game against the Bears. The three scores are only one off of his career low through his first six games, set in 2008, his rookie year.

Asked about the offense's problems inside the 20, Flacco said, "We can definitely do a better job in the red zone. We have to get down there more. We know. We're identifying some of the issues and what they are and some of the things that are happening. I can stand up here all day and talk scheme and things like that about progressions from me and route running. We know what the issues are, and we're working on getting better at them."

A finger could also be pointed at offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, whose schemes have not led to offensive fireworks.

A prodigy of late San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, Mornhinweg's offense is built on a West Coast philosophy that emphasizes short, horizontal routes that require precise timing between the quarterback and receivers. The intent is to soften up defenses for more significant gains downfield.

But as Maclin pointed out, the field shrinks as an offense marches into the red zone, and defenses can clog passing lanes with more defenders dropping back into coverage.

"Everything has to be that much more precise," he said. "Guys have to be on the [same] page that much more, and for whatever reason, we just haven't been able to capitalize down there. It's a hit-or-miss league, and unfortunately to this point, we've probably missed more than we've hit."

Mornhinweg took the blame for the red-zone offense's ineffectiveness.

"It starts with me, and we certainly have to get better in that area," he said. "We've got to get better situationally as well. Now we're good in some situations, and we're poor in others. So that's one of the areas where we must get better."

Could another solution involve a bigger target? At 6 feet 5, Chris Matthews is the team's only wide receiver taller than 6-2. Tight ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are 6-4, but they are backups to 6-3 starter Benjamin Watson.


Matthews, who has played only 59 of 400 offensive snaps so far, was targeted by Flacco in the end zone against the Bears on Sunday, but slipped and flailed at an incompletion.

Asked if having a taller receiver in the red zone would help, Mornhinweg said, "Yes. We just have to execute just a little bit better down there, and that starts with me. I've got to install better, teach, all of those things."

Moore, who is 6-1, said he is more than willing to battle with a defender for a jump ball.

"I can go up and get a fade route if we need to," he said. "I don't think it has anything to do with size or anything like that. It just comes down to us executing the plays that are called, and that's what it's going to keep coming down throughout the year."

Now the Ravens face the Vikings, who ranks fourth in the NFL in red-zone defense. Opponents have scored only six touchdowns in 16 trips (37.5 percent) inside the Vikings' 20.

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But Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that this season has been difficult to predict.

Coach John Harbaugh pointed to several factors, such as the offensive linemen blocking longer, coaches devising better routes and receivers catching the ball. Harbaugh said it boils down to one simple truth.

"We're just not making the plays we need to make down there, and it's everybody," he said. "Coaches and players, we have to find a way to do it."

Red zone has meant 'stop' for Ravens offense

The Ravens are tied for 28th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, converting only 44.4 percent of their trips inside opponents' 20-yard line into touchdowns. The offense's woes have been reflected in quarterback Joe Flacco's numbers thus far. Flacco has passed for only four touchdowns this season with three coming in the red zone.