The Ravens lost their first of the season in Foxboro, and the loss came down to five critical mistakes made by the purple and black.
1. Chris Carr’s opening kickoff fumble
I’ll admit that, at this point, any good feelings I had regarding the signing of Carr this past offseason have flown the coop. He is terribly indecisive on both punt and kick returns, and his decisions to repeatedly bring the ball out from 5 yards deep in the end zone are bash-your-head-against-the-wall inducing. Fumbling the opening kickoff, in a huge game, on the road in front of a hostile crowd is unforgivable (Chris Carr, get me some WAFFLEFRIES!). The defense held strong in keeping NE out of the end zone, but spotting a team like the Patriots a 3-point lead in the first minute of the game is no recipe for success.
2. Joe Flacco’s Red Zone interception at the end of the 1st half
Tough to say who was more “at fault” here, but there was obviously some miscommunication between Flacco and Mark Clayton. Clayton ran a stop-and-go, Flacco threw to the “stop” part of the route, and Leigh Bodden was left as the only player near the ball. Bodden made a very nice play to pick the ball off, but it never happens if Clayton is there to fight him for it.
The Ravens, trailing 17-7 at the time, had the chance to go into the locker room down by a single score, but instead gave themselves the daunting task of overcoming a double-digit deficit against Belichick and Brady.
3,4. Roughing the passer penalties on Ngata, Suggs.
These two plays are being heavily criticized by talking heads and pundits all over the league this week. They were, unquestionably, ticky-tack. However, those are the rules. It’s on the players to know what they can and cannot do, ESPECIALLY to the guy that the rule book was basically rewritten for. Neither of the “hits” (if you can call them that) on Brady were malicious or put him in any danger whatsoever, but that’s not the point. Blame the refs if you want, but the rule committee are the ones really at fault here.
Suggs looked like he was doing everything in his power to avoid Brady, but he stumbled forward and brushed the QB’s legs. In the 2009 NFL, that is a penalty.
New England scored touchdowns on both drives that were extended by the laundry on the field. In short, they took advantage. Great teams take advantage of the rules, mediocre teams complain about them.
Which do you want to be, Ravens?
5. Mark Clayton’s sudden, last minute stone hands
After all that, the Ravens still had a VERY good chance to win this game. The final drive put together by Joe Flacco was a thing of beauty. Starting at their own 20, down by 6, with 3:32 to go, the Ravens were nearly perfect in moving the ball to the New England 14 with 30 seconds to go and 1 timeout remaining.
With 1:10 to go, and the ball at the NE 20, Flacco floated a pass to Clayton in the side of the end zone. It would have taken a GREAT play to pull it in (and given Tom Terrific a bit too much time for comfort), but the fact remains that the ball hit Clayton on the arms, and he COULD have had it.
Three plays later, Flacco went to Clayton again, this time on 4th-and-4, on a 6-yard out. Clayton was wide open, and a catch would have led to a time-out and 4 shots at the end zone from about the 8 yard line to win the game. Unfortunately, Clayton tried to turn and run for the end zone before securing the ball, it bounced off his numbers, and the Ravens got sent home losers.
I’m not gonna sit here and crucify Mark Clayton…but it’s a pretty safe bet that #89 will be featured prominently in this week’s editions of both “Come on Man!” on ESPN and “Did Not Play Like a Raven” right here at the Nest.
I also feel like I have to call out Cam Cameron a bit this week. Cameron, who has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving in B’More, really shat the bed in this one. If I agree with Mike Preston, you know it’s bad.
Joe Flacco threw the ball 47 times for 264 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per play. Conversely, the Ravens ran the ball 17 times for 116 yards, an average of 6.8 yards per play. The Patriots, even with Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker, were much more balanced on offense, nearly 50/50 run/pass. The Ravens could have used their running game, which was working effectively, to move the ball, extend drives, rest their defense, and keep Tom Brady off the field.
Ray Rice had 103 yards on only 11 carries.
Willis McGahee had 11 yards on 5, but again found the end zone through the air.
Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain had…0 carries???
What the hell, Cam?!?!
Never was the puzzling absence of McClain more perplexing than when, with 5 minutes left in the game, the Ravens faced consecutive 3rd and 4th-and-1s near midfield. Rice and McGahee ran back-to-back for 0 yards, and the Ravens handed the ball back to the Patriots, who then had the chance to seal the deal then and there.
Is short yardage not McClain’s specialty? He seems to pick up those short first downs every time! Even more maddening was the fact that, not only was he not given the ball on either of those plays, but he WASN’T EVEN ON THE FIELD! At the very least, McClain should have been used in his decoy/blocking FB role there, needing just 1 yard.
Even before this play, I was yelling at the TV for some Pain Train. I was a bit nervous that he had perhaps been injured and the cameras not caught it, but then I did spot him in on a few plays (blocking, of course) earlier in the fourth.
Let’s hope Cameron looks at the film this week, gives himself a few nice “/facepalm!s” and gets back to balance from here on out. The Bengals, for one, are much improved in the secondary this season.
On the whole, the Ravens had a chance to win in the final minute, against a very good team, despite shooting themselves in the foot multiple times. If you have to lose, that’s the way you want to do it. Hey, they weren’t going to go 16-0. I had them penciled in for 2-2 after 4 games, and they are 3-1 with an earlier-than-expected battle for the division lead coming up this Sunday at home. Let’s move past this one and get ready for Cincy.
Finally, regarding two Ravens who were severely injured in the game:
Brendon Ayanbadejo, last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and anchor of the Ravens’ already questionable kick coverage teams, told the media he is likely done for the season, needing surgery on a torn quadriceps tendon. (Guh. On the play that Brendon got hurt, he is never even in position to be injured if Dominique Foxworth wraps the ballcarrier up and makes a damn tackle, instead of diving at his ankles with a shoulder!)
Paul Kruger, you are the next man up.
Jared Gaither, taken off the field on a stretcher after slamming his head into Joe Flacco’s back, reportedly has movement in all of his extremities. Gaither was too large to fit in the MRI machine at Mass. General Hospital, but X-Rays on his neck and shoulder came back negative. No word on how long it will be until Gaither returns, but we wish the big man all the best in a full and speedy recovery. In the meantime, Michael “Blind Side” Oher will get to live up to his book by moving to the left side, and Marshal Yanda will take over for Oher on the right.