1. Same story- It has become a recurring theme for this team, but when you are unable to make plays in the final minutes of close games, you aren’t going to win them. In the Ravens last five losses they have lost each game by an average of 3.4 points. In games like those it is the little things in those moments that determine the outcome. In Chicago, the Ravens were down three with the ball on the two yard line and it was second and goal. The team was unable to score a touchdown on the next two plays and had to settle for a field goal, and take the game into overtime. Two yards, and the team was unable to score. They finally had found their running game, but on second and goal, they handed the ball off out of shotgun. Why didn’t they bring in their heavy package to try and run the ball? That is what I don’t understand. Then, in overtime, the defense had the Bears in a third and long situation, but were unable to stop them. On that play, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Corey Graham miscommunicated because Alshon Jeffrey was left wide open and easily picked up the first down. You could tell Graham was very unhappy with Webb after the play. The following play, Webb didn’t turn his head around in time and the Bears completed a huge pass to put them into field goal range. The little things once again hurt the Ravens.
2. Flacco stumbles- Quarterback Joe Flacco made some nice plays in Chicago yesterday, but the two interceptions he threw were the difference in the game. Coming out of that weather delay, the Ravens were up 10-0, but things changed quickly after Flacco threw a pick six to a defensive lineman because he was telegraphing his pass. He has done that way too much this year and it is about time someone made him pay for it. Then, in the last minute of the first half, Flacco threw a ball into quadruple coverage and linebacker Jon Bostic intercepted the pass. That lead to a field goal at the end of the half. That means that Flacco was responsible for 10 points in this close game. That can’t happen.
3. Ray Rice sighting- It is too early for Ravens nation to be relieved after Rice’s performance, but it is certainly a great starting point. Rice had his first 100 yard game of the season and he had some flashes of the old Ray Rice. It was nice to see him have a big game, but it was interesting that the team ended up losing. With the offense struggling, everyone thought that fixing the run game would result in wins, and yet the team was unable to pull one out in Chicago. Hats off to the offensive line also, as they opened up holes for Rice all day and even gave Flacco good protection throughout the day.
4. Pass rush disappears- What has been a strength on this team for the whole season was no where to be found on Sunday. The pass rush was invisible. I didn’t hear Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil’s name called once yesterday. Bears quarterback Josh McCown had all day to throw and he exposed their secondary. That was evident in overtime when he made two crucial throws to set up the game winning field goal. He was barely touched. Coming off a week where they hit Andy Dalton almost every time he dropped back to pass, it was surprising to see this group struggle.
5. Now what?- The Ravens now sit at 4-6 with six games left. The good news is that they are still in the running for a wild card spot. The bad news is that the Bengals now have a bigger lead in the division and the Steelers and Browns are also now 4-6. The Ravens will have many opportunities in these last six games to get back in contention, but their recent performances have shown that they are unable to win the close games. That is the difference between this years team and last years championship team. Last year’s team found ways to win when you thought the game was over. In San Diego, Ray Rice made turned a dump pass on fourth and forever into a first down. In the playoffs against Denver, Jacoby Jones and Flacco connected on a miracle deep ball to send the game into overtime. Those Ravens found ways to win, while these find ways to lose. There is no way of knowing what will happen over these next six weeks, but it’s hard to imagine this team making it into the playoffs the way they are playing right now.