Ravens need to improve in the red zone

OWINGS MILLS – The end zone practically became forbidden territory for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, a no-crossing zone created as much by miscues as the Miami Dolphins having a stout defense. It was the most glaring shortcoming for the Ravens during a 26-10 victory on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium

Then, Joe Flacco was sacked by nose guard Paul Soliai.

The Ravens committed a delay of game penalty on third down prior to Flacco being sacked by outside linebacker Cameron Wake. Then, punter Sam Koch muffed an accurate snap by Morgan Cox for an aborted field goal attempt on fourth down.

"I think it's just execution," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We can do a better job. You know, don't have field goals down there. We want to complete passes.

"We had a couple opportunities to complete some balls that would have been scores. We could have run the ball better. Miami did a nice job." The Dolphins rank second in the league in red-zone defense.

A long drive stalled before halftime when Mason was penalized for offensive pass interference for pushing off in the end zone when he shoved cornerback Vontae Davis. Despite picking up 11 yards on a Ray Rice run, tight end Todd Heap was flagged for a false start. That has become almost a weekly occurrence. On 3rd-and-11 at the Dolphins' 14-yard line, right tackle Marshal Yanda was beaten by Wake again for another sack. That led to another Cundiff field goal.

After Mason's touchdown on the Ravens' fourth red-zone try in the third quarter, Flacc was sacked by linebacker Tim Dobbins. When T.J. Houshmandzadeh came up three yards shy of a first down on a third-down reception, the Ravens sent Cundiff into the game again. However, he missed a 37-yard field goal wide left. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens scored on field goals from 20 and 24 yards.

They followed a conservative approach intended to hold onto the lead after squandering 10-point fourth-quarter advantages in each of their two previous games.

"There's certain things that come to play in the red zone," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "For us, we felt like at certain points of the game we had the game under control and just had to kick a field goal. There's certain times where you just want to preserve a field goal and that's what we did.

"You have to be smart, it just depends on the situation. You don't want to go down there, turn the ball over, throw an interception for a touchdown and instead of a two possession game, you're tied up. You have to be smart in making decisions like that." In one sequence, Rice gained a total of one yard on a rush and two receptions followed by the Ravens scoring a field goal on 4th-and-1 at the Dolphins' three-yard line. Then, the Ravens intentionally took a delay of game with 2:12 remaining rather than go for it on 4th-and-1 at the Dolphins' one-yard line. Cundiff kicked another field goal for the Ravens' final score. "I went over to coach Harbaugh and told him to kick it," Boldin said. "There's no way they score two touchdowns on our defense. The game is over at that point."

Nonetheless, the Ravens' red-zone problems could come back and haunt them at some point. Perhaps as soon as Thursday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons rank seventh overall in red-zone defense

"You try to correct what you did wrong," Mason said. "Look at the film, be very critical of yourself. Just try to better prepare the following week. Try not to have any mental errors, no pre-snap penalties.

"We understand that we're going to get down there a lot as a team. What we have to start doing now is capitalizing, and in order to capitalize, we have to make sure that we don't have to do anything to shoot ourselves in the foot."

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