It was fitting to see the Ravens fall apart in the final 5 minutes of the first half Saturday night in Indianapolis. Fitting because the final 5 minutes of halves are exactly where everything went wrong for this team throughout the season in dropping 8 games.
Need a refresher?
Week 4 @ New England:
Final 5 minutes of 1st half-The Patriots were ahead 10-7, but a Sammy Morris 12 yard TD followed by a Joe Flacco interception put the Pats up 17-7 at the break.
2nd half-After driving the length of the field, a hopeful game-winning drive faltered when Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton dropped passes to finish the Ravens’ chances.
Week 5 vs. Cincinnati:
1st half-After getting into Bengals territory with :33 to play in the half, the Ravens were unable to get even as much as a FG attempt before the half. They were forced to burn their final timeout at the :33 mark because an 8 yard pass to Todd Heap was in the middle of the field. (The Ravens ultimately lost by a field goal.)
2nd half-Carson Palmer converted a 4th and 1 to continue a hopeful game-winning drive, then Ray Lewis’ personal foul on Chad Ochocinco and Ed Reed/Frank Walker’s pass interference on a 3rd & 16 put Cincy in scoring position. They cashed in, as Palmer found Andre Caldwell for the winner.
Week 6 @ Minnesota:
1st half-Trailing 14-0, the Ravens had a golden opportunity to make the game a 1 possession game with a 1st & 10 from the Vikings 12 yard line and 2 timeouts. Unfortunately, all they could muster was a 1 yard completion to Ray Rice, and they were forced to kick a FG. (The extra 4 points would have made up the eventual 2 point difference.)
2nd half-After what seemed like an impossible rally, the Ravens went ahead 31-30. It took Brett Favre little time to turn things around for the Vikes-as he went 58 yards to Sidney Rice on a play where Frank Walker couldn’t have interfered more. After a Ryan Longwell FG put the Vikings back ahead, the Ravens had a chance to win the game, but a bad snap from Matt Katula lead to a bad miss from Steve Hauschka at the gun.
Week 9 @ Cincinnati:
1st half-Trailing 17-0, the Ravens got the ball back with 2:52 to play and a chance to do SOMETHING before going to the locker room. It took just one play for Joe Flacco to be picked by Leon Hall on an unnecessary deep ball, and the Bengals took that same advantage to the locker room.
2nd half-Despite a Steve Hauschka miss with 6:12 to play, the Ravens still had a chance trailing 17-7 late. Approaching midfield on the better side of the 2 minute warning and with timeouts still in their pockets, everything fell apart. Joe Flacco was sacked on 3 straight plays, and the Bengals essentially clinched the AFC North.
Week 11 vs. Indianapolis:
1st half-The Colts punctuated an 80 yard drive with a 5 yard TD by Joseph Addai to put the Colts ahead 14-9. After some strange play-calling, the Ravens DID still manage to cut the Colts’ lead to 14-12 going to the break, but better use of the clock could have taken them the extra 18 yards into the endzone.
2nd half-Trailing 17-15, the Ravens were marching towards a sure-fire FG or a hopeful TD to re-take the lead. But the drive fell apart when Joe Flacco was intercepted by Gary Brackett on a short pass over the middle. After getting a stop, the Ravens had one more chance-but Ed Reed fumbled away a punt return on an unthinkable lateral attempt.
Week 13 @ Green Bay:
1st half-The Ravens had given up just 3 points when there were 5 minutes left on the clock. By the time they went to the half, they had given up 17. Sound familiar? Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver caught Aaron Rodgers TD’s to extend the lead. Unbelievably, the Ravens actually had a chance to get points before the half when they got the ball at the GB 37 with :32 to play and 2 timeouts-but they could get just 12 yards.
2nd half-Due to Joe Flacco throwing one of the worst interceptions in Ravens history, the final 5 minutes at Lambeau Field were mostly unnecessary. But the Pack rubbed salt in the wounds anyway, adding a Mason Crosby FG and finishing things with a Clay Matthews sack to finalize a 27-14 victory.
Week 16 @ Pittsburgh:
1st half-After driving into Steelers territory, a drive to tie the game or potentially go ahead was thwarted by an Ike Taylor sack. The Steelers responded by marching downfield, and a Ben Roethlisberger-Santonio Holmes TD extended their lead to 20-10. John Harbaugh decided for some inexplicable reason to call his final 2 timeouts in the last 35 seconds-saying he had hoped for a pass to set up a Hail Mary. It doesn’t make any more sense now than it did at the time.
2nd half-Trailing 23-20, the Ravens marched into PITT territory and were approaching Billy Cundiff FG range at the 35 when they faced 3rd and 7. Two LaMarr Woodley sacks later, the threat was over. The Ravens had the chance to get the ball back one more time thanks to a Tom Zbikowski INT return, but the play was negated by a Frank Walker illegal contact call.
Divisional Round @ Indianapolis:
1st half-Tied at 3, the Colts faced a 4th and 4 from the Baltimore 35 that had the Ravens stopped-they would have been in great position to try to take the lead going to the half. Not only did Joseph Addai pick up the first down, Peyton Manning ultimately found Austin Collie for what would end up being the game-winning TD. The Ravens got the ball back, but mixed a 1st down run with 2 incomplete passes-giving Indy one more chance. They made it count, as Reggie Wayne hauled in a short TD to take a 17-3 lead.
2nd half-As was the case in Green Bay, the final 5 minutes were mostly unnecessary. But the Colts made sure the Ravens didn’t get even as much as a glimmer of hope-as Antoine Bethea and Jerraud Powers wrapped the playoff victory up with interceptions.
As you can see, the struggles over the final 5 minutes were in every phase of the game. Untimely mistakes, bad play calling, clock mismanagement, errors in judgment, and lapses from the defense, offense and special teams. It wasn’t a season where Joe Flacco, the secondary, the O-Line or the coaching staff struggled in the final 5 minutes of halves-it was a season where EVERYONE struggled in the final 5 minutes of halves.
Ultimately, the responsibility to win the final 5 minutes probably does fall on the head coach. Managing what tend to be frenzied situations and having to make quick decisions are the responsibility of the man in charge-as there can only be one voice in the panic. The final 5 minutes would be the time where John Harbaugh needs to be able to veto a call from Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison OR Jerry Rosburg-or just make a call on his own.
But even if he chooses not to do that, the final 5 minutes are where attention to detail is most critical from a head coach. This has plagued Andy Reid throughout his career in Philadelphia, and is probably the biggest reason why Reid is thought of as a really good coach instead of a Super Bowl winning coach.
John Harbaugh just wrapped up his 2nd year as a head coach. He has time to change things. But with every issue the team faced this season-the final 5 minutes of each half were the most obvious place where this team lost 8 games.
Losing 8 games won’t be acceptable if this team wants to take steps forward in the future.