For the 2nd straight week, the Ravens dominated the football game for about 55 of the 60 minutes, held a lead in the 2nd half, had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty assessed against them at a crucial time…and lost. The call against Terrell Suggs with 6 minutes to go, when the Titans were backed up on their own 20 yard line, facing what should have been a 3rd-and-15 from their own 15 (if the play had been stopped, like it should have, to assess the false start penalty on Tennessee), was downright atrocious. Anybody with a pair of eyes can see that Suggs merely glanced the SHOULDER of Kerry Collins, and not his helmet, and that Suggs completely stopped once the contact was made. We have another bone to pick with the penalty though:
During the Ravens opening drive of the 2nd half, a similar situation occurred. Albert Haynesworth came across the line before the snap, made contact with Jason Brown, and the play was whistled dead for encroachment. EVERYBODY STOPPED (unlike on the Suggs play). Everybody, that is, except Haynesworth, who kept right on trucking, wrapped up the defenseless Joe Flacco, and slammed him to the ground. 71,000 at M&T Bank Stadium waited for a 2nd yellow flag that would never come (and a flag NOT coming was a rare occurrence in this one). To throw the flag on Suggs, after not throwing another one on Haynesworth, is quite puzzling. We don’t ask for perfection, stripes, but is a little consistency too much to ask for?
The officiating in this league has been pretty damn bad in 2008 (see: Hochuli, Ed), and yesterday was just another example.
There are, of course, plenty of other reasons the Ravens lost this one. The head-scratching clock management at the end of the first half that saw the Ravens pick up a 1st down at the Titans’ 22 with 38 seconds left and 1 timeout left, then proceed to not 1) hurry to the line and spike the ball; or 2) use the timeout. The result was :24 of wasted opportunity, a missed 45-yard field goal attempt on 1st down, a fruitless 77-yard drive, and a tie game at halftime.
Next on the list is the inexplicable ability of Joe Flacco, when rolling to his right, to convince himself that that guy in blue between him and his receiver isn’t really there. Flacco threw the ball to Titans defenders 3 times while rolling to his right, and every time every fan in attendance knew what was going to happen as soon as he released the ball. John Harbaugh’s 2nd successful challenge on 2 tries this season saved Flacco from a 3-pick day, but he deserved all 3 of them. Enthusiasm for the rookie QB will be tempered for at least a few days here in B’More, and that’s probably a good thing. Rookies will play like rookies sometimes, and Joe’s day should quiet all this silly 2nd-coming-of-Unitas talk thats been poisoning the local airwaves of late.
Hmm, what else? Ah, yes, special teams. A unit that has guys like Brendan Ayanbedejo, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura (on a side note, that was the toughest string of 3 names to spell I have ever had to deal with) runnin around, we’d like to see less relying on kickers and punters to make touchdown-saving tackles. And when Sam Koch (having a Pro Bowl-Caliber season, btw) drops a punt on the 3 yard line that will force the Titans to go 97 yards on their game-winning drive instead of 80, please PLEASE don’t fall for the returner’s “I’m gonna walk up here and fair catch the ball at the 10…cuz that’s where its gonna land…SUCKERS!” juke. Please. Thank you.
The Ravens lack a certain “killer instinct” at the moment. The ability to finish eludes them. Finish drives. Finish games. The offense has to stop being afraid to go for the jugular when they have a lead. The defense, now ranked 1st in passing, rushing, and total yards, needs to stop giving up points every time they are handed a lead (more on this later in the week).