Penultimate play sealed fate of Ravens defense on final drive

October 03, 2016 | Luke Jones

Sunday was a strange day for the Ravens defense in the one-point loss to Oakland.

Allowing 28 points and four touchdown passes is a disappointing day by most standards, but two of those scores came on “sudden-change” drives of 29 yards or less and the Ravens allowed a mere 153 yards through three quarters.

So, what the heck happened on the final six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that won it for the Raiders?

Baltimore had a couple problems with dropping to the right spot in coverage on the final drive, according to linebacker C.J. Mosley after the game. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr also made a few terrific throws and deserves some credit.

The pass rush certainly wasn’t there, but that was nothing new as the Ravens failed to sack or even register a quarterback hit on Carr all day. Whether sending extra blitzers — as defensive coordinator Dean Pees did twice on the last drive — or relying on a four-man rush, the Ravens rarely made the young quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket as he regularly got the ball out quickly.

In fact, the Ravens used the hated three-man rush on the penultimate play of the drive — they used four or five rushers on every other play of the drive — and nearly made the play to seal the victory. But that was the difference from the previous three weeks when the defense was able to make a critical stop in crunch time.

On first-and-10 from the Baltimore 23 with 2:25 remaining, Carr made an ill-advised deep throw over the middle intended for tight end Clive Walford, who was covered by safety Eric Weddle on the play. Weddle undercut the route just in front of the goal line and got both hands on the ball, but the veteran was unable to secure the interception that would have ended the drive and given the Ravens the chance to run out the clock with a 27-21 lead and just over two minutes left.

Making matters worse, Lardarius Webb delivered a low hit to Walford’s thigh that dislodged the safety’s helmet and prompted the training staff to remove him from the game to evaluate him for a concussion. With Webb out, reserve Kendrick Lewis entered at safety for the next play.

Already with two touchdown receptions, Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree got behind cornerback Shareece Wright on a double move and Lewis inexcusably allowed a receiver to get behind him in the red zone. The 23-yard touchdown was Oakland’s longest pass play of the game and led to a frustrating 28-27 defeat for a Ravens defense that had played well for much of Sunday’s game.

Perhaps Webb makes the same mistake, but Lewis too often allowed big plays over his head as a starter a year ago.

Against Cleveland and Jacksonville the previous two weeks, the Ravens came away with late interceptions to clinch one-possession victories.

On Sunday, Weddle was unable to make the play that could have won it for Baltimore. It would have been a great catch, but that’s what you sometimes need to prevail in a close game against a quality opponent.

The final touchdown spoiled an otherwise good day for the defense, but the Ravens missed their chance on the previous play.