Let the second-guessing begin.
I don’t know any other way to say it, so I won’t mince words or try to come up with some creative way of putting it.
If you have two time-outs remaining and it’s 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1, one of those plays must be a run play to get the first down and extend the game.
You have a red-hot field goal kicker, booting it with the wind. Honestly, all you might have needed there was to get to the Eagles 42 yard line and Justin Tucker would have been a fair bet to kick a 59-yarder to win the game.
Instead, Cam Cameron sent in two passing plays to end the game.
And Joe Flacco didn’t change them at the line of scrimmage.
Two plays later, with two time-outs still on the clock, the Ravens turned the ball over on downs and the Eagles won, 24-23.
Now, in fairness, Philadelphia deserved to win.
Michael Vick, Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson torched the Ravens linebackers and secondary all afternoon. I don’t think the great Chicago fire of 1871 was as damaging. If not for three red-zone turnovers, Philadelphia would have won the game with ease. The Eagles, as the saying goes, hung around long enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Credit to them.
The Ravens, meanwhile, essentially put Ray Rice on hiatus for most of the second half, that is until their penultimate drive when Rice accounted for 60 yards as the Ravens used Tucker’s third field goal of the day to go up 24-23. I’m not quite sure how it happens that one of the best all-purpose backs in the entire league goes 20 minutes or so and touches the ball three times, but that’s what happened on Sunday. When Rice got the ball in the first half, he was deadly. When he finally touched it late in the 4th quarter, he was again a wrecking ball. When he didn’t factor in the game-plan, the Ravens offense stalled. You figure it out.
Flacco’s performance was as puzzling as the late game play calling. He was sharp in the first half, going 14-for-17 for just 92 yards and a TD throw to Jacoby Jones. He looked a lot like the Flacco who carved apart the Bengals last Monday night. In the second half, he looked more like – gasp! – Kyle Boller. Following an ill-advised throw that was picked off by DeMeco Ryans on the first series of the second half, Flacco went into what we formerly referred to “affectionately” as the Boller-shell. He was off on his throws, looked unsure of himself and was apparently rattled by the Eagles pass rush and the pick he threw to Ryans. It didn’t help, of course, that Michael Oher was so ineffective on the left side that Harbaugh and Cameron had to go with Bryant McKinnie for a couple of series’ just to try and keep their quarterback from getting pounded.
(This is also the spot where I could rake the officials over the coals, but in all honesty, they were horrible on both sides of the ball all day, so writing about their influence on the game is moot. They stink, as we’ve all seen, and the league should be embarrassed beyond belief for having them out there. They’re just in over their head, period. Enough said on that topic. And as far as I could tell, none of the refs called two passing plays on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 to end the game.)
In a league where every game counts – mostly at the end of the season when you’re scraping for every piece of daylight in the standings you can get – this one might very well come back to haunt the Ravens later on down the road. With Tucker’s dynamic leg, Baltimore was literally only about 15 yards from a very reasonable field goal attempt when they approached their own 46 yard line with 57 seconds left to play.
I was in the press box at Lincoln Financial Field saying, “Run the ball here…get the first-down…and call a time-out.”
They threw it. Incomplete to Dennis Pitta.
With two time-outs remaining, another pass play was sent in on 4th and 1 and that, too, fell incomplete.
I’m a dummy from Glen Burnie, admittedly, but you just can’t lose a game like that when you only need one yard to keep a drive going and you have two time-outs to burn.
This one shouldn’t sit well with John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco. I know Joe likes to air it out and I realize he’s trying to “announce his presence with authority” (Bull Durham reference, thank you very much), but the number one goal on the agenda in the final two plays was easy — get a first down. That gives you four more plays, at least.
Not getting a first down there is just unacceptable. Period.
And that’s how you lose football games that you coulda, shoulda, woulda won.