The Ravens scored on their first five drives of Sunday's game against San Diego.
The problem, however, was that they had to settle for field goals on three of those possessions.
Struggles in the red zone were a theme throughout Sunday's 34-3433 loss to the Chargers, as the Ravens were held to field goals four times after crossing San Diego's 20-yard line. Failing to punch in another touchdown on at least one of those red-zone trips proved costly, as it kept the door open for the Chargers to mount a late-game comeback.
"That was huge, it was the difference in the game," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "We wouldn't have had to worry about them scoring at the end if we had scored more touchdowns at the end of the game. The defense wouldn't have been under pressure like they were, and we have to take responsibility for that."
The issues varied in the red zone.
On two of the trips that ended in field goals, the Chargers stuffed Baltimore's running game to keep them from moving the chains or getting in the end zone. On another drive, a 10-yard penalty on left tackle Eugene Monroe for illegal hands to the face put the offense in a hole.
"They played their defense, and we probably would have liked to run the ball a little better than we did in those situations so we could have got some chunks and turned them into touchdowns," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We would have liked to come away with touchdowns – and we obviously didn't."
The most critical drive where the Ravens failed to punch the ball in the end zone was late in the fourth quarter after a 72-yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones. The Ravens moved the ball inside San Diego's 20-yard line, but then weren't able to pick another first down to keep the clock ticking after the Chargers used all of their timeouts.
The Ravens ran a pass play on third down with two minutes, 32 seconds left in the quarter, and the incompletion stopped the clock. The Ravens had to settle for a 31-yard field goal attempt, and the Chargers had plenty of time to go down the field on their final possession.
"We wanted to be aggressive and try to get the first down and try to close the game out, if we could. That's what we tried to do there," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We felt like we had a good call. It was a play-action call. We felt like we'd get somebody open. We didn't. So Joe had to throw it away there."
Struggles near the goal line have been a problem for the Ravens at times this year, and they came into Sunday's game ranked 16th in the NFL by scoring touchdowns on 53.7 percent of their red-zone trips. The Chargers also had their share of problems when it came to defending inside the red zone, as they ranked 26th in that category.
"We need to look at that," tight end Owen Daniels said. "They actually weren't very good of a red-zone team defensively. They're a good defense, but not quite as good down there in the red zone. So, we've got to take a look at some stuff obviously."
Check out the best photos from this critical AFC showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium.