Just how problematic were the Ravens defense’s fourth-quarter performances this year?
“Not having the ability to get off the field cost us maybe three or four ball games this year,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said during Wednesday’s “State of the Ravens” press conference.
The Ravens surrendered a franchise record 134 points in the fourth quarter. It’s more than the 130 points allowed in the fourth quarter in 1996, the Ravens' inaugural year. It’s also 52 more points than the Super Bowl XLVII winners gave up in the fourth quarter in 2012.
It burned them against Green Bay, in Pittsburgh, in Cleveland, in Chicago and against New England and Cincinnati to close out the season missing the playoffs.
So how do the Ravens fix it?
It’s tough to put a finger on a problem when the defense plays well for three quarters, but simply sputters at the end. Newsome cited three main ways to improve.
First, it begins with simply getting more out of what the Ravens already have. Overall improvement should lead to better results in all quarters.
Secondly, he feels the team needs a playmaker at free safety to play alongside strong safety
“When tipped balls are in the air, guys that can come away with that,” Newsome said.
Lastly, the unit simply needs to have the confidence to get the job done in crunch time. That is, perhaps, the time when the loss of leaders and playmaking veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed was felt most.
The Ravens didn’t have the killer instinct that often takes time to develop.
“In order to be successful, you have to have confidence,” Newsome said.
“I think we’ve got to build a confidence amongst our defensive players that, in those situations, they can make a play and win the game. They don’t have to go out there and play tentative or scared. Go make the play; the other 10 guys have got your back. I think we’ll be able to get to that because it was a new mixture of guys. It was seven new guys on defense, so they had to get the cohesiveness going. You have to get to the point where you feel like you can make that play and get the defense off the field.”
The Ravens showed a glimmer of that when Elam made a game-ending interception in Detroit. Cornerback
But the Ravens need more plays like that to improve on defense in 2014.