This time, there was no late-game heroics to save the Ravens.
No half-a-world-away kick from Justin Tucker.
No final minute punt return from Jacoby Jones.
No last gasp drive from Joe Flacco and the offense.
This time, it was just football for sixty minutes.
And, the Ravens got their rear ends handed to them by Tom Brady and the Patriots. There’s no other way to slice it. No fancy way to sugarcoat it. Not on Sunday. It was 41-7 in favor of the Patriots and the beating was as bad as the score would indicate, even if two of the New England TD’s were scored in garbage time.
It was a day to forget for Joe Flacco and the offense. Going up against a beleaguered and injured New England defense, the Baltimore offense simply laid a colossal Christmas egg, coughing up the ball on four different occasions and failing to pick up a first down on two separate 4th and short situations in the second half.
On the first occasion, the Ravens were faced with a 4th and 2 at the New England 39. They had already run the ball twice in the series — once for five yards and the other for three yards, but offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell eschewed the reasonable solution of running off the edge and instead asked Flacco to connect with Jacoby Jones on a short pass. It failed.
Later on, at the New England four yard line, the Ravens had two chances to pick up one yard. On 3rd and 1, Caldwell again called for a pass play, which was incomplete. Facing a 20-0 deficit, the Ravens rightfully went for it on 4th down. Flacco initially lined up in the shotgun with Rice to his right. Just prior to the snap, the QB scooted under center and gave Rice the ball off tackle, where he was stopped for no gain. Was that the play design coming out of a Baltimore time-out where the Ravens discussed a critical play-call? If so, it looked sloppy at best, ill-executed at worst.
Those two 4th down failures didn’t cost the Ravens the game, but you can’t win football games in the NFL when you can’t pick up two yards and one yard with your season perhaps on the line.
Later, the Ravens made the wrong call on a field goal decision that all but sewed up the game for the visitors. Trailing 20-0 and faced with a 4th and 5 at the Patriots’ 19 yard line early in the 4th quarter, John Harbaugh elected to send Justin Tucker on the field for a 36 yard field goal. That Tucker would miss the field goal was almost poetic justice, for even if he would have connected, the Ravens still trailed by three scores at 20-3. He missed it.
Sure, Tucker should make a 36-yarder every time, but the call there should have been to go for it on 4th down to try and get a TD on that series and make it a two score game.
If the game wasn’t over prior to Tucker attempting the field goal, it was over when he failed to connect.
The Baltimore offense has now scored one touchdown in its last eight quarters of action. Six field goals last Monday night in Detroit and one “we don’t care if you score” TD allowed by New England on Sunday. In fairness, one of those days where the ineptness of the offense finally catches up to the Ravens was bound to happen. Other Sunday’s, Flacco and Company would figure out a way to put up a TD or two and add a few Justin Tucker field goals to win 23-20.
This was the Sunday where the football gods finally said, “You boys are gonna have to play some legit football on offense today.”
And, the Ravens didn’t answer the bell.
The Baltimore defense got picked apart early by Tom Brady, who used Julian Edelman like a fiddler with his bow. When the Patriots took advantage of a pass interference call on Jimmy Smith in the end zone and a Flacco interception to go up 14-0, all they had to do from there was play smart, use the clock and not turn the ball over. What quarterback in the world is better than doing those things than New England’s #12?
Brady expertly used the middle of the field as the Ravens’ secondary played a soft cover-2 that put little emphasis on physicality.
One week ago in Detroit, the Ravens defensive backs went toe-to-toe with Calvin Johnson from the first whistle and physically challenged him.
Against New England, there was very little of that press coverage scheme from Jimmy Smith or Corey Graham, although it’s fair to note Lardarius Webb was tight on his man most of the day.
The Baltimore defense put little pressure on the quarterback all afternoon. Strong? Yes. Big in size? Yes. But the Ravens lack pace and speed in their defensive front seven and when they face a quick-release quarterback like the one in New England, there’s not much damage being done.
When Brady gets time to do his thing, it can get ugly. Like it did on Sunday.
On the flip side, the Ravens offense was unable to solve the mystery of the New England defense that somehow constructed a method to beat Baltimore on the inside and give Flacco something to think about most of the day. Horrible against the run, the Patriots weren’t challenged that much by Caldwell, who went to the air 42 times. It was a weird combination, it seemed. New England WANTED the Ravens to throw it and the Baltimore coaching staff did just that.
It all added up to the worst home loss of the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco era. With their playoff lives on the line, the Ravens turned in a stinker for the ages, at home no less, and made next Sunday’s game in Cincinnati a must-win affair.
Everyone’s shorts smelled on Sunday.
The coaches had a long day.
The offense had a longer day.
And the defense, which played respectably overall, got a lesson in how Tom Brady operates when the calls and the balls are both working in his favor. He’s tough to beat.
Hell, Justin Tucker missed a 36 yard field goal.
You know you’re not winning if that happens.