When they reach the red zone this season, the Ravens have made scoring touchdowns look automatic.
They are the first team in NFL history to score touchdowns on their first 12 visits to the red zone, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Ravens' red zone scoring has been perfectly balanced – six rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns.
"If you can do both of those things, especially when you get down tight inside the 5-yard line, that helps a lot," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It takes a lot of pressure off your offense.
Here are three reasons why the Ravens are a perfect 12-for-12 in the red zone:
Multiple Players Are Scoring, Keeping Opposing Defenses Off Balance
Seven different Ravens have scored touchdowns this season – running back Javorius Allen, tight end Mark Andrews, wide receiver John Brown, running back Alex Collins, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, running back Kenneth Dixon, and wide receiver Willie Snead IV. Allen has three touchdowns as a runner and one as a receiver.
When the Ravens get close to the goal line, opposing defenses can't be sure who the Ravens are most likely to target. Roll coverage toward Crabtree, and Flacco may throw to Brown. Expect a passing play, and Flacco may hand off to Collins or Allen.
Give Flacco credit for making terrific use of his weapons. Quarterbacks walk a fine line in the red zone, throwing into tighter windows while trying to avoid turnovers. Flacco is doing that well. He is not forcing the ball to one or two favorite targets. He seems to have confidence in everyone, letting his eyes take him to the right place as the play develops.
"We've got good playmakers, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense with the guys that we have out there," Flacco said.
Crabtree showed in Week 1 that he'll be a red zone difference-maker with his tough basket catch in the back of the end zone. Brown flashed his ability to go up and make a play (and still drag his toes to stay in bounds) in Cincinnati.
Notice that Lamar Jackson has yet to score as a runner, thrower or receiver. That makes the Ravens' 12 for 12 efficiency in the red zone even more impressive. Still, he could score at some point this season as the season progresses, as Baltimore has tried to utilize him near the goal line. His mere presence helped open up a lane for Collins' 6-yard touchdown run Sunday.
Meanwhile, rookie tight end Hayden Hurst has yet to play following his foot surgery, and Hurst was the team's best receiving tight end during training camp and the preseason. When Hurst returns and join fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews as a receiving threat, the Ravens' red zone offense could become even more diverse.
The Ravens Have Run Successfully Close to the Goal Line
Collins has an eight-yard touchdown run on first-and-goal, and a six-yard touchdown run on second-and-goal. Some teams are very reluctant to call running plays inside the 10, figuring they won't make tough yards between the tackles close to the goal line.
"You have to give the players credit," Head Coach John John Harbaugh said. "We've run the ball down there very well. It doesn't always show up on the stats, but you have to be able to run the ball in the red zone."
Allen has been particularly strong near the goal line. The 6-foot-0, 218 back has three 1-yard touchdowns this season, as he is good at finding small gaps, strong at hitting them and relentless with churning his legs.
Part of being successful in the red zone is having the willingness to fight for every inch of turf. Allen also displayed that on his 12-yard touchdown catch during Sunday's win over the Broncos, when he stretched for the pylon in the corner of the end zone, refusing to be stopped short.
"That's NFL football at its best," Harbaugh said. "I think 'Buck' Allen has become one of the real legitimate players in this league – kind of quietly. He's become a top-level player. Really, really happy for him."
Overall, the Ravens' rushing attack has not been up to par, averaging 3.1 yards per carry to rank 31st in the league. But near the goal line, the Ravens have run effectively. If that continues, their high red zone efficiency should continue as well.
When the Ravens bog down offensively, fingers are often pointed toward Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. When things work well, Mornhinweg deserves credit. Offenses have less room to work with in the red zone, yet the Ravens have found soft spots in the defense to exploit.
"Without short-changing the players in any way, I thought some of the plays have been really brilliant," Harbaugh said. "We've have some play-action plays, where some guys have been wide open, some easy throws, stuff like that."
Flacco created more time to throw in the red zone by moving well in the pocket. The longer defensive backs must cover Brown, Crabtree, and Snead, the more likely they are to break free.
Check out all the action from the Ravens' Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.