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Capitalizing In Red Zone Still A Frustration


Joe Flacco threw up his arms in disgust, then ripped off his helmet and shouted as he came over to the sidelines following a failed third-down attempt in Thursday's game against Pittsburgh.

The missed third-quarter opportunity ended up leading to a field goal, one of five Justin Tucker kicked in the critical 22-20 victory over the division rival.

The Ravens scored enough points to win, but the frustration with settling for field goals was evident in Flacco's on-field demeanor and post-game comments.

"We were right there," Flacco said. "That's why I think [my demeanor is] probably a little more animated and [field goals are] so frustrating, because we were just right there. You could taste it, and we just didn't convert a lot."

The offense moved the ball against Pittsburgh and capitalized on opportunities to put up points. The Ravens punted just once, never turned the ball over and scored on six of the seven possessions.

They spent much of the game in Pittsburgh territory, but drives stalled out whenever they seemed to get inside the Steelers' 30-yard line. Settling for field goals nearly cost the Ravens, as Pittsburgh mounted a late comeback and came within a dropped two-point conversion of tying the game to likely force overtime.

"I thought we played pretty well tonight, to be honest with you," Flacco said. "That's why I was so frustrated. We did so many things really, really well and put ourselves in so many positions to put points on the board and put a lot on there tonight. Anytime you score 22 points, you basically kicked all field goals and you scored on a lot of drives. You didn't punt the ball, you didn't turn the ball over. We did so many things well."

The issues varied as to what killed the drives, but the common theme was self-inflicted wounds. The Ravens were flagged for five false start penalties during the game, and four of them came inside Pittsburgh territory to kill drives.

Right tackle Michael Oher was flagged twice. Left guard A.Q. Shipley and wide receiver Torrey Smith were both penalized once. In each situation, the penalties came on first or second down, and the Ravens were unable to extend the drive with another first down and had to settle for field goals.

"We've just got to be a little better," Flacco said. "I've probably got to have a little bit better rhythm with my cadence."

"Got to cut out the false starts," Oher added. "I don't want to get penalties, especially false starts. I've just got to continue to be patient, I guess."

Penalties weren't the only problem.

Smith dropped a pass that would have given the Ravens a first-and-goal from about the 5-yard line. Flacco also told reporters that he missed a wide open receiver on one play and instead tried to force a pass to Smith on the opposite side of the field.

"I blame myself," Smith said. "I don't look at Joe, I don't look at our defense, I look at myself. I needed to make some more plays. And they were there; I need to make them regardless of the down or what the situation is. I have to make more plays for our team. We need touchdowns, not field goals. I'm just glad we got the win."

The other issue for the offense was the inability again to find holes in the running game. The Ravens finished with 74 rushing yards on 25 carries, and did not have a run longer than 9 yards inside the red zone.

"One thing we kept saying is that in the red zone we'd like to have a few of [those drives] back, to score a touchdown instead of three," running back Ray Rice said. "But when you have a kicker like that, it makes a huge difference."

Tucker once again proved how valuable he was by booting field goals of 43, 34, 38, 45, and 48 yards. He has now hit 27 field goals in a row and* *has missed just twice the entire season.

While Tucker has given the Ravens a boost with nine field goals in wins over the Steelers and Jets the last two games, the hope for the offense is that they can cut into his workload and give him a rest in the upcoming days.

"We've just got to get better at those little things that are going to get us over the edge," Flacco said. "It's not hard stuff; it's just simple little things that you do every day."

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