Of the six losses so far in 2013, Sunday’s defeat in Chicago was the toughest.
It was the only one of the defeats where they had a chance to win at the buzzer…and failed.
Against Denver, a 17-14 halftime lead turned into a blowout when Peyton Manning and Company went nuts in the 3rd quarter.
In Buffalo, a last minute drive ended at midfield when Dallas Clark deflected a throw that was intercepted by Kiko Alonso of the Bills.
Green Bay salted the game-away with their own late-game drive and the Ravens never really even had a chance to go on the offensive down the stretch.
Pittsburgh parlayed a late kickoff return into a last second field goal to beat the Ravens.
And, in Cleveland, the Ravens trailed throughout and didn’t have much of a chance late in the 4th quarter.
That was not the case in Chicago on Sunday, though, as the Ravens drove the length of the field — aided by a huge personal foul penalty against the Bears — and moved the ball to the 5-yard with less than a minute to play. Down by three, a Baltimore touchdown would have given John Harbaugh’s team a huge road win and put them in glorious position for an AFC wild card berth.
Three downs to get five yards.
Three downs to pick up fifteen friggin’ feet.
They couldn’t do it.
And that, more than anything else, is why the Ravens are a 4-6 team.
Yes, yes, yes, the Baltimore defense got gashed in overtime and gave up a huge 3rd down pitch-and-catch to Alshon Jeffery and a 43-yard game-breaker to Martellus Bennett on the next play to set-up the winning field goal.
That, though, was only made possible because the Baltimore offense couldn’t move the ball fifteen feet in three plays.
On first down at the five, the Ravens tried running the ball with Ray Rice. He picked up three yards.
Now, you need just six feet — two yards — to win.
On second down, Rice tried going to his left and was bumped back a yard to the three.
And then, on third down, Gino Gradkowski’s bad snap fouled things up from the start and Flacco’s throw to Torrey Smith in the end zone was too high.
That’s how you turn winning into losing.
There were lots of bright spots on Sunday in Chicago. The Ravens’ running game came back to life after a season-in-a-coma, taking advantage of a horrible Bears run defense to pile up 174 yards on the ground. Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley both had their best days of the season at center and guard, respectively. Chris Canty and Art Jones were studs defensively. Dallas Clark made a couple of terrific catches, including a game-saver – potentially – on 4th and 4 on the final drive in regulation.
Unfortunately, the negatives narrowly outnumberd the positives, which is how the Ravens wound up losing 23-20. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were both no-shows on Sunday, although Dumervil finally did get his name mentioned late in the game when he picked up a personal foul penalty in the 4th quarter that helped extend a Chicago drive and keep the clock running for the home team. Joe Flacco and Rice teamed up for a horrific 2nd quarter interception-for-return by the Bears, as the running back whiffed on a high-school level blocking assignment and Flacco then didn’t get the ball up and over Chicago’s David Bass, who did the tip-and-catch thing to perfection and scampered into the end zone for a 24-yard TD. And, early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens inexplicably challenged an Alshon Jeffery catch that cost them a valuable time-out after the play was – not surprisingly – upheld after video review.
When you have a couple of more negatives than positives, that’s how you lose.
Honestly, the Ravens would have won this game a year ago. Not because of heart or effort or anything like that. You certainly can’t fault the team’s fight on Sunday in Chicago. They battled like a defending champion is expected to battle. But, a season ago, the Ravens would have reached the end-zone with twenty seconds left in the game. How? I don’t know. They just would have.
This team is 4-6 for a reason.
They don’t do anything particularly well is probably the most logical reason, but the truth is they’re 4-6 because they can’t beat teams like the Bills, Browns and Bears.
The funniest part? The Ravens are still very much in the AFC playoff race, along with about seven other teams. At this point, a two game win streak over the next eleven days would put them at 6-6 and give them a legit shot at finishing the season on a strong note and securing a 6th straight playoff berth.
That said, there’s no guarantee the Ravens win two more games TOTAL, let alone two in a row at home over New York and Pittsburgh.
As we’ve seen over the first ten games, there’s no telling what this Ravens team is going to do from game-to-game, half-to-half, quarter-to-quarter and series-to-series.
They couldn’t even pick up five yards on Sunday when doing so would have won the game for them.