Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 31-28 OT loss to the Washington Redskins
Matt Vensel analyzes Baltimore's loss to Washington in Landover
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After many of the bounces went their way in the first three months of the season, the Ravens, while still a dangerous team going forward, might be running out of luck.
A football, with its oblong shape and pointy edges, can bounce in an infinite number of directions when it is put into play, when a kicker booms it down the field and makes it tumble end over end until it comes back down to earth. Which way it bounces on any given play comes down to luck. Well, unless you are one of those smarty-pants science people who understand physics, but I digress. As the Ravens got off to their second 9-2 start in franchise history, seemingly every bounce of the ball, every break went their way. Sure, there were unfortunate injuries that are starting to catch up to them now (for more on that, keep clicking), but other than that, luck was often on their side. Justin Tucker's field goal floated just inside the upright to beat the New England Patriots. A botched snap aided the Ravens in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dallas Cowboys shot themselves in the foot late in the Ravens' two-point escape in Week 6. There was the injury to Ben Roethlisberger right before the Ravens played the Pittsburgh Steelers twice in three weeks. And surely you haven't forgotten about 4th-and-29 already.
There is a saying for luck, that you make it for yourself. The Ravens are 9-4 right now and still in great shape to claim the AFC North title because they have put themselves in a position to win -- whether it was aesthetically pleasing or not -- in the final minute in all but one of their games this season. It helped that Lady Luck -- oh, that fickle temptress -- had obliged. But recently, it has looked as if they have done something to draw her ire. One week after penalties, turnovers and blown assignments cost them in a last-second loss to the Steelers (who were playing with third-string quarterback Charlie Batch), penalties, turnovers and blown assignments cost them in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.
The Ravens were mostly efficient offensively and the defense adjusted quickly to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins' read-option scheme. But for a second straight week, the Ravens couldn't hold a late lead, as Griffin and then fellow rookie Kirk Cousins led a game-tying drive that took forever to get going. But then, just like that, their eight-point lead was gone and their luck ran out in overtime, when some guy you and I have never heard of, Richard Crawford, returned a punt deep into Ravens territory, setting up the game-winning field goal. "We damn sure ain't looking for a way to lose," free safety Ed Reed said after the game. But for whatever reason, the losses have been looking for them. With the 31-28 loss, the flawed but still formidable Ravens have now dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2009.
With their weaknesses again brought to light these past two weeks, they can't afford to have that oblong ball bouncing to the NFL's hottest team, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, this upcoming weekend. Or to the defending Super Bowl champs, Eli Manning and the New York Giants, the week after that. And then there is that trio of heavy hitters, including those Broncos, that will be looming after the season finale in Cincinnati. Make no mistake, the Ravens are still capable of going on a run to New Orleans. Anything is possible, whether it is probable or not, once you make the postseason. But the Ravens should consider sending flowers to Lady Luck. They need to get back in her good graces immediately.