The Ravens are still striving to give up fewer yards overall.
But the defense has been effective once opponents are in touchdown striking distance.
After Sunday’s win against Oakland, the Ravens now lead the league in red-zone touchdown percentage, allowing opponents to get into the end zone just 35.1 percent of the time once they are inside the 20-yard line.
Opponents haven’t scored a touchdown in their last eight straight trips into the red zone.
Head Coach John Harbaugh attributed the success to three main factors.
First, the Ravens have players who “understand how to play it.” Second, the defense is creative with their play-calling in the red zone. Third, the unit has cracked down on short-yardage touchdown runs.
“We have probably one of the best safeties ever to play the game,” Suggs said last week. “When it gets too close, when he gets constricted room back there, he doesn’t like it. So, that fire kind of gets lit again, and we are ready to go.”
In terms of play-calling, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has done well dialing up different plays and formations. He can do that because a shorter field is easier to defend because there’s less space to zip passes.
“We’ve got really creative packages,” Harbaugh said. “It’s hard to figure out what we’re in, what coverage we’re going to be in. I think it causes quarterbacks to hold the ball a little bit and gives us a chance to get some pressure.”
As far as short-yardage touchdowns runs, the Ravens haven’t given up a rushing touchdown in the past two weeks after allowing seven in their first seven games.
Pees raised another point outside of Harbaugh’s, saying there’s a confidence factor to defending your end zone.
The Ravens have long had that. Suggs trumpeted a “bend but don’t break” attitude last week, and was especially vocal about that in Cleveland, where the Ravens surrendered just five field goals.
“It’s kind of like third-down teams,” Pees said. “There are good third-down defenses, and I think they just think they’re pretty good on third down and they end up being good on third down.”
Pittsburgh’s defense, which faces Baltimore Sunday, is almost the opposite of the Ravens’ in this regard.
It is atop the league in yards allowed per game (265.7), but ranks 19th in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns 55.6 percent of the time. The Steelers rank 19th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns 50 percent of the time.