Five thoughts on the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field:
Ravens Should Have Won In Regulation
They lost it in overtime, but really, they lost it in the final seconds of regulation with their inability to put the ball in the end zone. Down by three points, they had a first down at the Bears’ 5-yardline with 36 seconds to play. A run by Ray Rice moved the ball to the 2. That seemed attainable on a day when the Ravens rushed for a season-high 174 yards. “We were jacked up, just needed a couple of yards, ready to end the game right there,” Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. The play-call was fine, another run by Rice. The Bears stuffed him, forcing a third down from the three, which the Ravens failed to convert, largely because center Gino Gradkowski’s shotgun snap was a roller. Justin Tucker’s field goal forced overtime, but the Bears were thrilled to take that, given how close they were to losing. “Give them credit; they made the plays,” Yanda said, “but we have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone there. No doubt about it.”
Storm Didn’t Cost Ravens The Win
Of all the crazy days, this was about the craziest. The weather went through five phases by my count, from warm to rainy to stormy to sunny to blustery. The teams spent two hours in their locker rooms because of a first-quarter weather delay. The field was moist before the delay, a mosh pit after it. Winds gusting to 47 mph wreaked havoc with all decision-making. And yes, just like in the Super Bowl, they Ravens had a lead before the delay (10-0 this time) and lost their momentum after play resumed. But please, let’s not have any more cockeyed conspiracy theories. The truth is the crazy weather and crazy playing conditions didn’t impact the outcome one iota. Both teams had to deal with the situation. Both had some good and bad moments with it. The game came down to whoever made the last big play, and Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made it with his 43-yard catch in overtime, using his eight-inch height advantage over the Ravens’ Lardarius Webb to grab the throw. That decided the game, nothing else.
McCown Outplayed Flacco
One of the big reasons the Ravens have wanted to get their running game going is that it helps the passing game so much, forcing teams to pay heed to play-action fakes. At long last, the Ravens finally had that going for them in this game. And quarterback Joe Flacco did take advantage of it early: he was sharp in the first half, connecting on 11 of 17 attempts for 101 yards as the Ravens drove to a pair of touchdowns and three scores overall. (Yes, he also threw two picks before halftime.) But his performance dropped off badly after halftime. He hit on just six of 14 attempts for 61 yards in the last two quarters and overtime. Yes, the wind was gusting by then, the conditions far from ideal. But Bears quarterback Josh McCown was extremely effective over the same time frame, completing nine of 11 attempts for 132 yards in the second half and overtime, his yardage total twice the size of Flacco’s. Bottom line, McCown outplayed Flacco down the stretch of this game.
Strange Day For Ravens Defense
Fittingly in such weird weather, it was a strange day for the Ravens defense. Haloti Ngata was out with a knee injury, scratched before the game. Terrell Suggs had his quietest game of 2013 with one tackle and no sacks. Elvis Dumervil was even quieter than Suggs with no tackles, no sacks, no stats at all except for one tackle for loss. So, doing the math, that’s one tackle and no sacks combined for the unit’s biggest names, Ngata, Suggs and Dumervil. (Meanwhile, Chicago’s Julius Peppers was omnipresent with eight tackles, two sacks, four tackles for losses and two quarterback hits – a big-time performance.) The Ravens defense still held up for most of the game, pressuring McCown and keeping Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte from taking over – a good showing. The unit wilted late, though, allowing the Bears to drive 83 yards to a touchdown and 60 yards to the game-winning field goal – shades of the “can’t get off the field” issue that recently troubled them. “It’s frustrating. Our job as a defense is to stop that from happening, and we didn’t,” linebacker Daryl Smith said.
The Ravens dumped Bryant McKinnie and traded for Eugene Monroe to tighten things up at left tackle, but they surely didn’t like what they saw from Monroe in pass protection in this game. He gave up three sacks … The Ravens are now 1-5 on the road in 2013, and they’re 5-10 in regular-season games going back to last November … A strong showing from the running game was obviously the most positive development of the game for the Ravens. It’s something to build on, for sure. But an immediate reprise might not come easily next week against the New York Jets, who have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense … Funny, but with the Jets losing to Buffalo, the Ravens are still very much in the picture for the AFC’s last wild-card spot. No one in the race has a winning record.