Biggest issue facing Ravens? They can’t close out games…

October 20, 2009 | Drew Forrester

As the scrutiny continues and everyone in Baltimore adds their two cents on “what’s wrong with the Ravens?”, no one seems to be clenching on to the most telling and obvious issue of them all.

It’s not pretty, so buckle up for this one.

And, as Ian Eagle would say, “it’s not a low blow, it’s a fact.”

The Ravens have developed quite the nasty habit over the last two seasons.  And if they’re going to get over this 3-game-losing-streak-hurdle and move forward with the ’09 season, they need to figure out how to remedy this ailment before they take the field on November 1.  

The Ravens can’t close.

They can’t put games away when they have the opportunity…and that goes for both sides of the ball.

Already this year, all three of their losses have been “blown saves” if you will.  They failed to execute down the stretch in New England, falling short on a 2-minute drill and losing to the Patriots by six.  The next Sunday, it was the defense who caved in on the final series, allowing Carson Palmer to connect on a 20-yard strike with less than a half minute to play in a 3-point division loss to the Bengals.  And then, this past Sunday, Baltimore pulled off a miracle rally in the game’s final 9 minutes, but couldn’t contain Brett Favre and Company throughout the game’s final moments and wound up squandering the golden’est of golden opportunities on the last play of the game with a missed field goal.  

Wanna go back to last season?

Me neither.

But we will.

The Ravens were handling Pittsburgh with ease in week #3, leading 13-3 at the half and seemingly cruising to an easy road win before Pittsburgh capitalized on a bunch of Ravens mistakes in the 3rd quarter.  Although Baltimore did tie the game with a mid-4th quarter TD, the Steelers won in OT after the Ravens failed to move the ball in sudden death.  Tennessee came to town in week #4 and handed Baltimore a rare home loss with a late drive and a TD score for a 13-10 win.  Do we need to mention the other Ravens losses to Pittsburgh?  Nope.  But if you want to take that trip down memory lane, you’ll recall that Baltimore had great chances to win both and – guess what? – they couldn’t “close the deal”.

Some people are born to seal the deal.  Michael Jordan could do it.  Tiger Woods can do it.  Roger Federer has done it a lot.  Joe Montana made a career out of it.  So has Peyton Manning.  And Tom Brady.  And – gulp – Brett Favre’s going to Canton because of his ability to lead last minute comebacks.  

The Ravens have only lost 9 games in the last two seasons of football.  To my recollection, only two of those losses have been thumpings – last year’s pounding in Indianapolis and the loss at Giants Stadium.  The other seven?  All were games the Ravens could have won if not for their inability to seal the deal either offensively or defensively.  

Mind you, this year they had the chance to score late against the Chiefs and avoid an upset and they did just that.  The following week, they sort-of tried to give that game away in San Diego but were saved by the Ray Lewis tackle-of-all-tackles on Darren Sproles with 30 seconds to go.

It’s not as if they haven’t closed the deal from time to time over the last 13 months.  They have.

They closed the deal last January in Tennessee, putting together a great game-ending drive and ending the Titans’ season with a Stover field goal from 43 yards.

But this year’s 3-3 team has carried on last year’s tradition of not being able to apply the knockout punch when given the chance.  

It’s troublesome, to say the least, because as the season wears on and every game, every quarter and every play changes a season, the Ravens need to be reliable in the clutch.

Generally speaking, they haven’t been reliable when given the chance to seal the deal over the last 25 games.

I’m not sure who’s going to fix it.  Coaches?  Players?  Yes.  And yes.  Everyone has to look at the problem and say, “We have to remedy this situation before it’s too late.”

They’ll get their next chance on November 1 when Denver comes to town.