Turnabout is Fair Play For Ravens vs. Tennessee

January 13, 2009 | Thyrl Nelson

The Ravens may have been owed a call or two against the Titans, but they didn’t get all of the bad calls on Saturday. In Fact they may not have even gotten the “best bad call” of the game. What they did do was capitalize on theirs when it happened, something that teams have been doing to them all season long it seems.

There will be a lot of talk this week surrounding the crucial 4th quarter play in which the referees missed the play clock expiring on Joe Flacco and the Ravens while they converted on a crucial third down to Todd Heap. The Ravens and their fans will likely feel no guilt concerning this play, considering the difficult journey that they simply had in getting to the playoffs, and the number of crucial calls that hadn’t gone their way in key situations, particularly in games against both Tennessee and this week’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch the game on DVR a few times now, and have come to the conclusion that it was an all around badly called game. What’s more, whether intentionally or not, the game was pretty poorly covered for television too. There were a number of penalties and close plays that were never shown on replay at all, and the announcers seemed to do little to try and clarify some of the more confusing moments in the game.

With that said, the Titans will eventually be able to look in the mirror and admit that they lost that game when they missed out on 5 legitimate scoring opportunities, or perhaps they lost it when they lost Chris Johnson in the second quarter. But they didn’t lose it just because Flacco and the Ravens got an extra second on the play clock.

The drive on which Johnson was lost, is one that has been talked about quite a bit since the conclusion of the game, and was prolonged by perhaps the officials’ worst call of the game overall, and it changed the game in a lot of ways too.

After scoring to tie it at 7, the Ravens kicked off and allowed the Titans to drive 43 yards to the Baltimore 30 yard line before a bad snap on 4th down gave the ball back to the Ravens. At that point in the game, the Titans’ advantage in yardage was still minimal, time of possession was nearly dead even, and momentum was still clearly up for grabs.

Unable to seize the momentum, the Ravens did manage to move the ball 20 yards, back to the Tennessee 42 yard line, enabling Sam Koch to punt the ball down to the 1, pinning the Titans deep in their own territory. This is where things would get exciting.

The Titans opened the drive with a false start, backing them up further still, followed by 2 Chris Johnson adventures trying to get out of the end zone. (While we’re talking about close calls, it seems that Johnson may have actually been downed for a safety on the second run, but video evidence seemed far from conclusive.) On third down the Titans did manage to throw for the first, on a play that is conflicting as a Ravens fan. It allowed Tennessee to extend a critical drive, instead of having to punt from the back of their own end zone. But it also ended with the highlight reel tackle by Ray Lewis, in which he nearly decapitated Ahmad Hall.

On the next play, the controversy would begin. On first and 10 from their own 12, the Titans ran Chris Johnson up the middle for a gain of 7 yards. Although the game book credits Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs with the tackle, most remember it for the way that Ed Reed seemed to twist Chris Johnson up in a fight for the ball while Johnson was trying to eek out some extra yardage. Many have speculated that this was the play that injured Johnson as well, but he continued to play well for a few plays after.

On the 7-yard gain, the referees called an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Titans’ David Stewart. Initially they announced it as having occurred after the play meaning that they would have marked off half the distance to the goal line to the Tennessee 9 ½ yard line and left the Titans in second and 12 ½ from there.

If you listen closely, under the announcers talking, you can hear the referee make the correction that the foul occurred during the play, and therefore it was still first down. The problem though is that the penalty should have been marked from the original line of scrimmage if the down wasn’t going to count. So it should have been, either second and 12 ½ from the 9 ½ yard line, or first and 16 from the 6. Instead it was first and 12 ½ from the 9 ½ yard line.

Chris Johnson ran right on the next play, out of bounds for a 10-yard gain, and looked pretty healthy doing it. He did call to the sideline though and went out seemingly just to catch his breath. LenDale White was stopped for no gain on the next play, and the bonus down was a completion to Justin Gage which would extend the drive, result in a couple of key injuries, and change field position dramatically, but also set the precedent for red zone turnovers that would continue to haunt the Titans for the rest of the day.

A second straight completion to Gage would push the ball across mid field for the Titans and set up the run that would be Chris Johnson’s last. On first and 10 from the Baltimore 46, Chris Johnson got around the outside to the left, and after a gain of 4 yards was wrapped up by Brandon McKinney around both legs from behind. It was McKinney’s only tackle of the day but it proved to be a big one. Wrapping Johnson around his calves from behind as if with a lasso, McKinney made the tackle with both of Johnson’s ankles seeming to land under the weight of McKinney’s ample torso. No one made much fuss about it at the time, but Johnson grimaced as he got up, and never returned to action after that.

Two plays later, Terrell Suggs sacked Kerry Collins on what was to be his last play of the game, and three plays after that Samari Rolle intercepted the Titans’ QB to end the drive at the Ravens’ 9 yard line.

A drive that could have and probably should have ended in the shadow of their own goal posts if called correctly instead goes 90 yards and changes not only the field position, but the entire complexion of the game as well. Sometimes, even when things don’t go your way, they’re actually going your way.

There were lots of questionable or blatantly bad calls in Saturday’s game, and none will likely get more attention than the missed delay of game call, simply because of when and where it occurred. If you had given Jeff Fischer the choice however, before the game, of getting an extra down, and extra 3 ½ yards, or and extra second. The extra second would have likely been his third choice.

At the end of the day, turnabout is fair play, and turnabout is what the Ravens and Titans got on Saturday, a game that was freakishly similar to their previous match up, with all of the breaks simply breaking the other way. That’ll be a trend that the Ravens would like to see continue into their match up with the Steelers this week.