Ravens Blow Late Lead
The 9-4 Baltimore Ravens lost 31-28 in OT to the 7-6 Washington Redskins on a 34 yard field goal by Kai Forbath. For the second time in two weeks, the Ravens blew a late lead. This time it was an 8 point lead with 4:47 left in the game.
While the offensive play calling was good this game, there were two situations where I disagree with what the Ravens coaching staff decided. The first was after the Ravens scored their last touchdown with 4:47 left in the game, they kicked the extra point. This put the Ravens up by 8 points. The Redskins had to go down and score a touchdown and score a two-point conversion to tie the game. If the Ravens went for a two-point conversion and made it, they would have been up by 9 points which is a two possession game. Even if they didn’t get the two-point conversion, the worst that would happen would be overtime as the Redskins would kick the extra point if they scored. The other two situations were at the end of each half. At the end of the first half, the Ravens had the ball with about 45 seconds left. While the ball was on their own 13 yardline, they only needed about 40 yards to get into range for a 63 yard field goal. With 45 seconds left, this should be very feasible but instead the Ravens ran it twice and threw 2 short passes and gained a total of 18 yards on 4 plays. At the end of regulation the Ravens had the ball at their own 20 with about 30 seconds left. They just took a knee and went into overtime. This is more understandable as the offense hadn’t done good over the last few drives. These two decisions are rumored to be one of the reasons for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s firing.
Just a few general things about the defense before we go player-by-player. Overall the tackling was atrocious. You can definitely give some credit to the Redskins ballcarries but you also have to blame the Ravens as there rarely was a play where the Redskins went down on first contact. Most of the 15 completed passes against the Ravens came when they were in zone defense. More specifically, they came in-between the linebackers and the safeties. This is always a weakness in zone defenses but linebackers can usually get deep enough before a receiver gets there. The Redskins were able to exploit this with play-action passes. These plays completely confused the linebackers sometimes creating big holes in the middle of the defense. Even when it wasn’t play-action, the linebackers were looking for run more than pass and they were taking a few steps towards the line-of-scrimmage. This needs to be fixed for next week as Broncos QB Peyton Manning excels at play-action passes.
It was almost like Flacco played two different games against the Redskins. The first half was almost perfect for Flacco as he threw for 3 touchdowns and each pass was great. On the first, Anquan Boldin ran an out-and-up. Flacco pump faked the out and then threw a perfect pass to Boldin in the endzone. The next one was also to Boldin but was an even better play. After looking at the Redskins defensive alignment, Flacco audibled to a different play. On the play, Flacco looked left and pump faked to WR Torrey Smith on a slant. He then looked right and threw a great pass to Boldin for the touchdown. The last touchdown pass was an out route to TE Dennis Pitta in the endzone where Flacco placed the ball where only Pitta could get it. Against the blitz, Flacco really struggled. Both of his turnovers came against the blitz and he seemed to not recognize some of the blitzes. His fumble wasn’t really his fault but the interception was his fault. The Redskins had 6 rushers and the Ravens only had 5 blockers. He either has to bring a blocker into the backfield or get rid of the ball right away. He finished 16-of-21 for 182 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT. His QB rating was 121.4 and QBR was 54.2.
Both Ray Rice and backup Bernard Pierce had outstanding games. Rice had 121 yards on 20 rushes with a TD. He also had his longest run this season, 46 yards. Rice was able to average 6.1 yards per carry and Pierce had 6.8 on 8 carries for 53 yards. Due to this success in the run game, Flacco only attempted 2 passes in the whole 3rd quarter. This was also the quarter where Flacco had his two turnovers so the Ravens didn’t get any points. Both Rice and Pierce had an impact in the passing game. Rice had 3 catches for 15 yards on 4 targets and Pierce had 2 catches for 11 yards on 2 targets.
As I have said before, an easy way to tell if the Ravens offense is doing good is look at Pitta’s stat line. He finished with 5 catches for 46 yards and 1 TD on 6 targets. What is most revealing to me is he had no first down catches. Pitta is usually a first down machine. His touchdown was on a 3rd and 10 though so you can give him a small break.
Despite the Ravens only completing 16 passes, Boldin had a great game. He caught the ball every time he was targeted and had 3 catches for 78 yards and 2 TDs. Both of his TD catches were described above and his first one put him over 10,000 career receiving yards. His other catch was on a 3rd and 4. He caught it 8 yards downfield and then carried CB DeAngelo Hall for 20 more yards and was finally tackled at the 7 yardline. On the next play, Ray Rice scored on a 7 yard run. So he scored 2 TDs and set up another. The only negative for Boldin was he got called for a holdin penalty which negated a 4 yard run.
One Rice’s long run, the offensive line dominated the Redskins defenders. They blocked down and pushed the Redskins defensive line way away from the play. On the touchdown pass to Pitta, Flacco had all day to find a receiver. They also had great blocks on Rice’s TD run. Now for player specific notes. Jah Reid had another false start. Kelechi Osemele had a false start on a 1st and 10 inside the Ravens own 20 which really set back the drive. Michael Oher had the worst game of all lineman. He allowed a QB hit on Flacco inside the Redskins 20. If he had given Flacco an extra second he would have hit WR Jacoby Jones for a TD. Oher also gave up the strip sack of Flacco which occurred around midfield which is huge in field position terms.
Jones continued a trend of making his impact plays in bunches. Two of his three impact plays came back-to-back and all 3 came at key situations. After a good Sam Koch punt was downed at the Redskins 14, Jones went to work. On first down, he stopped a run for a loss of 3 yards. The next play he came in and sacked Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. This was the first time that Griffin was visibly injured. He stayed down for a moment but then got back up. These two plays helped the Ravens get the ball back at the Washington 47. However, the offense went 3 and out. The last impact play made by Jones was a half sack with Paul Kruger. This sack came on the Redskins final drive in regulation. On 1st and 10 from the Washington 36, Jones and Kruger sacked Griffin for a loss of 9. This was the play before Griffin had to come out injured. With this performance, Jones now has 4.5 sacks in the last 3 games.
Just like Jones, Kruger extended his his sack streak to 5 games and now has 6.5 sacks in that period. Kruger’s sack came on a 1st down. Griffin was slowed down by DE Haloti Ngata on the play and Kruger was able to finish him off for a loss of 8. This sack stalled the Redskins drive There were also other QB pressures from Kruger throughout the game. As stated above, his sack that was split with Jones came on the last drive of regulation. He also was in the right place at the right time as he recovered a fumble for a gain of 9 yards. This put the Ravens at the Redskins 14 yardline and then three plays later, Dennis Pitta scored his touchdown.
Unlike normally, Reed could be credited for 2 touchdowns against him. He also made no impact plays. The first touchdown came when the Ravens were in zone coverage. Reed seemed to know the ball was going to WR Joshua Morgan as he followed him all the way across the endzone but wasn’t able to stop the pass. The second touchdown could be credited to either Reed or CB Chris Johnson. It looked like they were in zone again on this play. The receiver on the play, Pierre Garcon, ran a corner route and split the zone. Reed was over the top and Johnson was underneath. The throw was just over Johnson’s outstretched arms and Reed couldn’t close the distance in time. Reed will need to be on his game next week against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos as the last time the Ravens won against Manning was in December of 2001.