Not much drives NFL head coaches crazy like failing to score points inside an opponents’ red zone.
In a game of inches where every play matters, failing to put points on the board once you’re down near the goalline – whether to take a lead, to tie or simply to put the finishing blow on an opponent – can be, and often is, the difference between winning and losing.
In 2013, the Ravens offense struggled and struggled some more. Those struggles included failing to capitalize in an opponents’ red zone on more than one occasion, as the Ravens came away from red zone chances with no points seven times (they scored on 45 of 52 red zone possessions).
The offensive line woes, Joe Flacco’s inconsistencies, the putrid run game and opposing defenses all played a role in the team failing to produce points far too often.
Of their 45 scoring possessions inside the red zone, the Ravens produced 24 touchdowns (17 passing, 7 rushing) and 21 field goals.
No player was more crucial to the team’s red zone offense than then-rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown.
Inside an opponents’ 20-yard line, Brown hauled in a team high nine receptions for 74 yards (8.2 ypc average) and an impressive seven touchdowns. His seven touchdowns consisted of receptions of 13, 5, 10, 20, 7,9 and 18 yards, respectively.
Torrey Smith (3), Dallas Clark (3), Dennis Pitta (1), Vonta Leach (1), Jacoby Jones (1) and Ed Dickson (1) all combined for the remaining 10 touchdowns the Ravens scored once inside the redzone.
With Leach, Dickson and Clark no longer on the roster, the Ravens needed to provide Brown and Smith – and more importantly Flacco – with fellow red zone targets and the signings of Owen Daniels and Steve Smith Sr. should certainly help.
While Daniels only saw action in five games for the Texans in 2013, his size and hands made him a good target for quarterback Matt Schaub inside the red zone. Daniels’ three touchdown receptions last season all came inside the red zone, where he caught three passes for 22 total yards.
In Carolina last season, Smith Sr. provided Panther quarterback Cam Newton an extra weapon inside the red zone, hauling in seven receptions for 67 yards including touchdown catches of 2, 3,17 and 19 yards.
As the Ravens offense begins to take shape over the next few months, Brown’s successful 2013 red zone campaign will certainly be in the mind of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
While weapons were indeed brought in to give Flacco other options, look for Joe and Marlon to pick up where they left off, starting this summer.
Here’s to many more purple touchdowns in 2014.
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