Bright Side: Red-Zone Defense Performs Against Ravens’ Top Offense

In case you’re one of the few Pittsburgh Steelers fans who don’t relish the opportunity to wallow in their misery or bask in the schadenfreude of knowing that they were right about how bad the team is, I can offer you at least one silver lining from last night’s loss: the red zone defense was a positive.

The Baltimore Ravens came into the game having established a new NFL record by converting on their first 12 trips into the red zone through the first three games of the season. They began the night by extending that streak, converting on their first trip inside the 20 after recovering a fumble at the Steelers’ 31-yard line.

But they didn’t get back into the end zone on their four subsequent trips inside of that crucial area of the field. They went 13 for 13 in the red zone, and then 0 for 4 after that, just a 20 percent success rate on the night against the team that had been the hottest in the league in that department.

The Ravens opened their first drive of the second quarter with a 71-yard connection to John Brown that put them on the Steelers’ 13-yard line. The defense even did them a favor by going offside to make it first and five from the eight. Joe Flacco then connected with Maxx Williams for six yards. First and goal on the two.

And then Alex Collins tried to bounce a goal-line run out to the left, where he was hit by Coty Sensabaugh and Sean Davis, jarring the ball loose. Terrell Edmunds recovered at the one-yard line. Baltimore was just feet away from going up 21-3, but the Steelers rebounded to make it 14-6, and then tied it before halftime.

And while the Ravens had, admittedly, a far too easy time moving the ball up and down the field during the second half between the 20s, things slowed down to a crawl once they got in there. In three trips inside the red zone in the third and fourth quarters, all they had to show for them was two Justin Tucker field goals.

Now, before I go on I do have to acknowledge that this stat comes with a caveat, as the final red-zone possession came at the end of the game when the Steelers turned the ball over on downs, and Flacco took two knees from Pittsburgh’s 16-yard line.

But before that drive, a Roethlisberger interception set them up at the 27, and they only made it to the 13 before settling for the field goal. On the previous drive, they made it from their own eight-yard line to the Steelers’ 10 before stalling. But stall they did.

The defense is going to give up a lot of yards, and big plays. What they have to do to compensate is produce turnovers and win situationally. That’s how the New England Patriots have had success. The Steelers had success in the red zone last night, and that’s a start. The next step is working on the third-down defense.v

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