Where to start?
Indianapolis stayed undefeated today by winning in Baltimore, 17-15, but it certainly was a game the Ravens coulda, shoulda and, perhaps, woulda won…if not for a whiffed 30-yard field goal and some odd decisions down the stretch from the quarterback, coach and safety-turned-punt-returner.
They’ll be talking about this one all week, that’s for sure.
Baltimore’s offense couldn’t get in the end zone one time on Sunday, instead settling for five field goals from newcomer Billy Cundiff.
But it was a Cundiff miss from 30 yards out in the 3rd quarter that proved to be the ultimate difference in scoring. It certainly wasn’t all his fault, as long snapper Matt Katula once again jammed the ball up high on Sam Koch’s right shoulder. Koch, though, got it down fine…but as John Harbaugh noted afterwards, Cundiff’s approach to the ball was too quick, his body was way in front of the ball at impact and he simply whiff-shanked it to the right for an improbable miss.
It got even crazier from there.
In the 4th quarter, trailing 14-12, Baltimore had a first and goal from the one and failed to get in on three straight running plays. That series will have the armchair coaches pulling their hair out all week. No play action there. No wide formation with various options for Flacco. A quarterback sneak, a run to the left, and a run to the middle kept the Ravens out of the end zone and they settled for a gimme from Cundiff to go up 15-14.
The Colts marched right down the field, aided in large part by a personal foul penalty on Haloti Ngata that changed the entire drive. In all fairness to Ngata, he’s a player that rarely commits such a blunder — but it came at a horrible time in the game.
A Matt Stover field goal from 25 yards put the Colts back on top – for good – at 17-15.
Then, it got even more strange.
The Ravens controlled the clock and moved the ball into Indianapolis territory late. They were well within Cundiff’s range when Flacco tried to stuff a ball into Ray Rice on 3rd and 4 and it was picked off by Gary Brackett with 2:42 to play.
For all the greatness that Joe Flacco possesses, this was once again a failed opportunity on his part to direct the Ravens to a win in the final minute of a game. It will happen, someday…but he fell short once again this afternoon against the Colts.
There’s still a lot more weirdness to come, though.
Indy got the ball back and on the first play of the drive, Joseph Addai inexplicably ran out of bounds. Another running play followed – for a short gain – and John Harbaugh wisely used his first time-out. That set up a 3rd and 2 for the Colts and rather than run the ball, as expected, they opted for a short dump off to Reggie Wayne, who was brought down by Domonique Foxworth just past the 30 yard line.
Now, we enter Strange-Ville.
Harbaugh, instead of calling for a measurement, which would have immediately stopped the clock, instead called time-out. Moments later, he threw the red challenge-flag to dispute the spot of the ball on Wayne’s catch and run.
When the referee returned with the decision, it was a knock-out blow for the Ravens. Not only did they uphold the call on the field, but Harbaugh lost TWO time-outs in one sequence, having used one after Wayne’s catch — and then he lost his 3rd time-out of the half because the challenge wasn’t overturned.
In fairness to Harbaugh, he took full responsibility afterwards in the press conference, saying, “I tried to do much in a short amount of time there. I need to do better, that’s for sure.”
Apology accepted, Coach. But that was a major blunder, especially when the Colts had to punt the ball away with roughly 45 seconds to play in the game.
And now, the team’s biggest blunder of the game took place.
Rather than have Chris Carr back there to fulfill his duty as the punt returner, the Ravens opted to let Ed Reed return the kick.
Bad move. I said it before the ball got kicked, so it’s not even hindsight. The ONLY thing you can’t have there is a turnover. The smart, logical play would have been to put Carr out there and DEMAND that he fair catch the ball. Baltimore would have had the ball on roughly their own 35 yard line. They would have needed 35 yards to set up a potential game-winning field goal from Cundiff. A 35-yard drive would have put them somewhere near the Indy 30. Cundiff had connected on a 46-yarder already. And other than the 30-yard gaffe, he was “on” all afternoon.
Instead, Reed was the returner and much to everyone’s horror, he decided to try and lateral the ball as he was going down near the Ravens 42 yard line. And the lateral, of course, bounced off the ground and into the hands of an Indy player and that, as they say, was the ballgame.
A lot of folks were barking at Ed Reed as they left the stadium and rightfully so. An All-Pro caliber player can’t commit that kind of mistake with the game on the line.
But that decision is on the coaching staff, unless Reed inserted himself in the game. I wouldn’t completely rule that out, but I’m guessing someone on the staff decided Reed would be a better option there than Carr.
They were wrong.
Carr gets the fair catch and the Ravens still have a chance at a miracle finish.
Reed coughs it up and the game ends.
You tell me which one made more sense?
The blessing for the Ravens is that Pittsburgh choked at Kansas City and lost in overtime to fall to 6-4. The bad news is that somehow, the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a win over Buffalo, now have a better record than the Ravens at 6-4.
This one will sting for a long time, as Baltimore once again failed to beat the Colts…their 7th straight defeat at the hands of Indianapolis.
And it will sting because of the mistakes that were made. The kicker, the quarterback, the coach, the safety…all with blunders that made the difference between winning and losing.