With yet another opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and win the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens watched as an eight point lead evaporated at FedEx Field with the Washington Redskins resorting to use their backup rookie QB Kirk Cousins for the game-tying score.
Robert Griffin III was injured late in the 4th quarter and with Cousins taking over, found Pierre Garcon wide open for an 11-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left. Cousins then ran a quarterback sneak for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 28.
After the Ravens received the football to start overtime and promptly went three and out, the Redskins rookie returner Richard Crawford ran a Sam Koch punt 64 yards to set up Kai Forbath’s 34-yard field goal to beat the Ravens (9-4) 31-28 in OT.
Joe Flacco started out strong, as he should have. The Washington Redskins came into the game ranked 31st against the pass and Flacco took advantage of that, buying time and getting the receivers in position to make catches. One of his touchdowns to Anquan Boldin came after Flacco looked off the safety to the left side of the field and came back to Boldin on the right side. He also threw a pretty ball to Dennis Pitta for his third TD of the game.
But Flacco still has a penchant of holding onto the football too long – a play in which he was strip-sacked of the football in the 3rd quarter for a turnover – and on the next possession was intercepted by linebacker London Fletcher on a ball that was deflected. Flacco still struggles with pocket awareness, where is the mental clock that you need to have as a starting quarterback? Flacco was sacked on a play where the Ravens had no protection for the blitz, and that was on Joe as he did not recognize it.
Flacco wasn’t the main reason the Ravens lost this game, but the two turnovers were extremely costly and he seems to be rapidly regressing overall as the season goes.
Running Backs: B
Ray Rice showed good decisiveness, busting off some good runs early with good vision up field. Rice ran 20 times for 101 yards and a touchdown which gave the Ravens a 28-20 lead in the 4th quarter. Bernard Pierce continues to see his workload increase, running for 53 yards on just eight carries.
Both Rice and Pierce found holes to run and Rice got into the Redskins 2nd level and busted off some bring runs that were close to being even bigger runs in the 1st half. But in the 2nd half, running lanes became more difficult and the Ravens weren’t able to move the ball effectively without the run.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-
Anquan Boldin had 78 receiving yards and twice burned corner back DeAngelo Hall for TD’s in this game. Hall had no answer for Boldin who was too strong and elusive beating Hall twice on double moves. Dennis Pitta had 46 yards on five catches to go with his touchdown. Pitta works the middle of the field nicely, and has great hands even in tight windows where defenders are to either side of him.
Torrey Smith had another quiet game, catching one ball for just 21 yards as he was covered by one-time Raven corner Josh Wilson. Smith had three targets, one of which was a deep ball that Flacco under threw and Smith had to become the defender.
With the Ravens wanting to use their two tight end sets, they are really missing Ed Dickson who is still dealing with injuries.
Offensive Line: D
The offensive line’s day could have been much worse but the Ravens were extremely effective running the football against a Redskins defense ranked in the Top 5 in the NFL against the run. Jah Reid had an up and down game, helping to spring Ray Rice for a long run in the 1st quarter, but also later had a false start penalty that killed a Ravens drive.
Against the pass, however, they struggled with speed on the edges and as the game progressed the Redskins were able to consistently use their speed to neutralize the Ravens tackles. Marshal Yanda left the game with a sprained ankle and was seen wearing a walking boot after the game. The line struggled in protection, especially Michael Oher who was beaten for a sack.
At this point in the season, it may be time for some changes on the line. The Ravens are struggling on the interior with pass blocking and Kelechi Osemele has had his issues at RT.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line was getting worked from the jump by the Redskins running game led by running back Alfred Morris. But by the 2nd half, the line made adjustments, stayed home in their lanes and took Morris out of in the 2nd half. Morris ran for 71 yards in the 1st half, but only 51 in the 2nd half.
They helped to keep RGIII contained for the most part, only rushing for 34 yards. Haloti Ngata was able to lay the hammer on Griffin as they kept solid pressure on him. With the pressure, Griffin short-armed a lot of throws and was rushed on others. Art Jones claimed 1.5 sacks in the game and continues his solid play.
Raven linebackers are still having problems defending the middle of the field and mainly just covering in general. They missed Dannell Ellerbe on the field.
Worried about the read-option offense, the Ravens had gaps exposed that Robert Griffin III took advantage of in the 1st half. Down field, the Ravens are easy to beat, finding soft spots, whether its communication or lack of skill.
Paul Kruger recorded 1.5 sacks, the 5th straight game he’s recorded at least one, tying a Ravens franchise record. His motor is unmatched and handles his own even without Terrell Suggs on the field. Jameel McClain had eight total tackles, but left the game with a neck injury.
There were so many missed tackles from this unit that I completely lost count. This has to absolutely get better.
For the 2nd straight week, the secondary was beaten late by a backup quarterback, this week in limited time by Kirk Cousins. There was a major mix-up where Pierre Garcon was left completely wide open in the end zone for the touchdown in the 4th quarter. Corey Graham had eight tackles and Cary Williams is starting to pick up his play at the other corner spot.
Special Teams: C
Special teams gave the Ravens good field position throughout the game with returns on kickoffs. Jacoby Jones averaged 29 yards on his returns, and if not for the wet turf at FedEx Field had running room to bust a long run late in the game.
But for what special teams giveth, they taketh away as well, giving up the 64-yard return from Richard Crawford which put the Redskins into field-goal range for the winning score. A unit that’s been pretty solid was not today when it mattered most.
The coaching staff put in place a game plan that could beat the Redskins, but execution from the players let this one slip through the cracks. Defensively, it didn’t look good for the Ravens as they were gashed by the run to begin the game, but they slowed the run and Robert Griffin III’s play-making ability. Offensively, the Ravens set the tone running the football effectively. They had a tougher time in the 2nd half, only scoring seven points, but overall, a well prepared game plan that wasn’t finished by the players on the field.
It was baffling as to why John Harbaugh elected to burn one of his timeouts in the 2nd half when the Ravens were in punt formation. Instead of taking a Delay of Game penalty, the Ravens used a timeout when they may have needed it late in the 4th quarter.
What’s happening right now is that it seems no team in the AFC North wants to take advantage of the division and there are plenty of problems with the top three teams.
The Ravens beat up Robert Griffin III but allowed a backup QB to again beat them and need to find a way to close out games that Raven teams of the past have been able to do. Somehow this team is in first place, but have now fallen to the 4th seed in the AFC. The Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning come to Baltimore next weekend.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.