Anatomy Of A Rout: Three Turning Points In The Ravens' Week 1 Loss
By Josh Aronson
The season opener for the defending Super Bowl Champions was tough, to put it lightly. The Baltimore Ravens gave up a franchise-high 49 points and watched Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning pick apart the new defense for an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes. It didn’t stop there, WR Jacoby Jones – an accomplished return man – is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL and RT Michael Oher could miss time with a sprained right ankle. And to add to the pain, the Ravens had to watch current San Francisco 49ers’ WR Anquan Boldin catch 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in his debut.
All things considered, the Ravens are going to be just fine going forward. The Ravens actually looked great in the first half against the Broncos, controlling the tempo and making stops on third down. However, there were three key plays that led to the blowout loss:
Play 1: TE Dallas Clark’s drop on third-and-goal leading to a Justin Tucker field goal.
With the game tied at 14-14, the Ravens put together an exceptional two-minute drill, which led to a third-and-goal opportunity for QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Flacco dropped back and hit Clark in the hands at the goal line, but the ball was dropped and the Ravens were forced to kick a field goal. Although the Ravens took a three-point lead into halftime, momentum was halted and an opportunity was squandered. Against elite quarterbacks like Manning, settling for three when seven could be achieved is flirting with disaster.
Play 2: WR Wes Welker’s “catch” on third-and-six on the Broncos opening second-half drive.
The most controversial call of the game allowed the Broncos go-ahead touchdown drive to continue and marked the second time in the game the officials missed an obvious incomplete pass. The first one was a screen to Demaryius Thomas that Ravens coach John Harbaugh challenged and won.
This time, Harbaugh kept the red challenge flag in his pocket. Why? I’m not sure, although he hinted after the game he wasn’t too pleased that NBC didn’t do a better job of showing a replay in time. In Harbaugh’s defense, second-half time outs are extremely important in what was a close game and losing a time out with 12-plus minutes left in the third quarter would have been difficult to swallow. But the fact of the matter is, he wouldn’t have lost it and the Ravens defense would’ve been off the field.
Play 3: Denver block a Sam Koch punt.
This is when the game was lost for the Ravens. The Broncos were able to capitalize and turn what was once a 17-14 Ravens lead into a 28-17 deficit just five minutes into the second half.
The score of the game was not indicative of the Ravens performance. The game got away from them in the beginning of the third quarter and going up against the best regular-season quarterback in NFL history didn’t help. Once they fell behind by multiple scores, the Ravens were unable to utilize the running game and led to Flacco attempting 62 passes.
Despite the lopsided loss, look for the Ravens to rebound nicely against the Cleveland Browns in their first home game since being crowned champions seven months ago – a game that will be dissected right here later this week.