Red zone issues getting under Ravens' skin

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Repeated failure in the red zone is beginning to haunt the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

Instead of engaging in end-zone celebrations, the Ravens have been cursing a series of self-inflicted stubbed toes.

The most glaring example was a 28-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders where the Ravens traveled inside the 20-yard line six times, but only scored one touchdown. Their other touchdown was scored on a breakaway run from Mike Anderson. "We underachieved as an offense," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We've looked at the film and we are going to correct some of the things that we did wrong. Sometimes, we stepped on our feet. "It's only going to get harder from here on out. We've got a bunch of good teams coming up, teams that were in the playoffs. If you are going to be able to beat those teams, you are going to have to be able to score in the red zone."

The Ravens rank 25th in total offense and are tied for 20th in red-zone scoring with a 33.3 touchdown percentage. Nine times, Baltimore (2-0) has reached the red zone. However, the offense has only managed to score three touchdowns. "We've taken a deep look at what we could have done in the red zone," quarterback Steve McNair said. "It's about putting six points on the board and not three. That's the main problem we have right now. "I think we could have done more last week. We just didn't execute. I think it is more about concentrating. Who knows? We might be able to score 50."

HEAVY HITTER: There aren't many nose guards as humongous or experienced as Cleveland Browns veteran Ted Washington. In his 16th season, Washington is listed at 6-foot-5, 365 pounds. Many around the league suspect the stout run-stopper is actually just a few biscuits shy of 400 pounds. His sheer girth can make for a long day for opposing centers and guards "He's a big dude, so you've got to stay low and be relentless on him," Ravens right guard Keydrick Vincent said. "I don't know how much he weighs, but you've got to get a good punch and stay on him. He's got a job to do and I've got a job to do."

TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens made one change in their second injury report of the week, adding rookie center-guard Chris Chester (thigh) with a questionable listing. Cornerback Samari Rolle, who's recovering from a strained foot and wore sweats during Wednesday's practice, was back in full pads Thursday.

The Browns are extremely unhealthy in the secondary, listing former Baltimore starting cornerback Gary Baxter as doubtful with a partially torn chest muscle. Baxter is unlikely to play, meaning Cleveland will likely start journeyman Ralph Brown opposite one of two young options: Antonio Perkins or Leigh Bodden. Teams have regularly picked on Brown when he's in the game as the nickel back. "This is the NFL," McNair said. "Everybody is good, regardless if they are the starters of the backups. So, we are going to take the same approach. We are just going to be patient."

Running back Reuben Droughns (shoulder) is questionable, but former Denver Broncos teammate Trevor Pryce expects him to play. "Reuben is one of the toughest guys I've ever seen," Pryce said. "He's going to play and he's going to be running downhill as fast as he can. "The great thing about Reuben is when he gets his legs churning it takes a long time for him to fall down. He's like a galloping horse. It's really bizarre." A 1,200-yard rusher last year, Droughns has gained only 59 yards on 25 carries for a 2.4 average per carry this season.

QUICK HITS: Leading the NFL in turnover margin with a plus-8 ratio, Baltimore has as many interceptions (six) as any other team has total turnovers. Their 211 return yards already eclipses last year's total of 193. … The Ravens are the only team in the league to not allow 100 total rushing yards in a game this season. … Tied for first in red-zone defense, Baltimore is one of three teams to now allow a touchdown this season along with the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos. … Besides Baxter, the Browns have four former Ravens on the roster: tight end Darnell Dinkins, punter Dave Zastudil and backup quarterback Derek Anderson. "It's fun to match up against those guys you once played with," running back Jamal Lewis said. "Now, you're playing against them and it just makes for a good game."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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