Five thoughts on the Ravens' 34-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
Harbaugh Right To Bench Allen, Sending Message About Overall Turnovers Problem
Strangely, while this was a lopsided game between teams in different places, going in different directions, they weren't much different when it came to moving the ball and stopping the other. The game's general ebb and flow was fairly even; the Ravens made their share of plays and actually out-gained the Chiefs. But mistakes changed everything – mistakes the Ravens made (three turnovers, seven penalties), and mistakes the Chiefs didn't make (no turnovers). The Ravens were especially charitable early, fell behind and didn't have the weaponry or consistency to catch up. And that wasn't just the story of this game – it's the story of these teams' seasons. The Chiefs are on an eight-game winning streak, likely headed for the playoffs, and now boast a plus-15 turnover ratio. The Ravens are 4-10, in contention for a top-five draft pick, and now have a minus-15 turnover ratio. Coincidence? Hardly. That's why Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was right to bench rookie Buck Allen after he fumbled for the second straight week. The importance of NOT giving the ball away must be emphasized.
Ravens Beat Themselves With Mistakes
While turnovers told the story, numerous other mistakes were just as central to the Ravens' downfall. They opened the game with palpable energy, but set themselves back so continually that they took the air out of the crowd. It started immediately, on the game's opening possession. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was already out of bounds on a third-down scramble, well short of the first-down marker, when the Ravens' Timmy Jernigan gave him a shove that sent him sprawling – an easy unnecessary roughness call for the refs. After a play Jernigan labeled "a mistake," the Chiefs quickly scored. Also problematic was a failed fake punt on a fourth-and-9 play at the Baltimore 17 late in the first quarter. Sam Koch took the snap and ran, but was stopped 2 yards short. It was a bold gamble and Harbaugh was unapologetic, saying he isn't going to stop being aggressive just because his team is losing. I tend to like that kind of gadgetry, just not so deep in your own end of the field. In any case, the Chiefs immediately turned the opportunity into six points, which is what they do. What's that old saying? If you don't beat yourself, you're halfway home. This game was Exhibit A in so many ways.
Kamar Aiken One Of Ravens' Feel-Good Stories
As a losing season rolls on, wide receiver Kamar Aiken is rising up the ranks of the team's feel-good stories. At this point, in fact, he might be at the top. Since Steve Smith Sr. went out with an Achilles injury at midseason, Aiken has produced as steadily as any NFL receiver. Sunday, he had his biggest day as a pro, giving the Chiefs' defensive backs fits and reaching the end zone on a Hail Mary grab at the end of the first half. The Ravens have plenty of issues, but Aiken isn't one of them. "He is just fighting his tail off on every single play," teammate Marshal Yanda said. The makeup of the Ravens' receiving corps is a major question mark going forward, but Aiken's place in that corps, as no worse than the No. 3 guy, is a certainty. He can get open, make tough grabs and reach the end zone. "I'm not surprised. I'm very confident in myself and my abilities," Aiken said Sunday.
Pair Of Unlikely Starting Tackles Shine
I found myself watching a pair of tackles, one for each team. When the Ravens had the ball, I watched Kelechi Osemele, whose late-season move to left tackle is being scrutinized for what it could mean down the line. He seemed to play well for a second straight week, and it was especially impressive this time because he lined up opposite one of the game's top pass rushers, Tamba Hali. The only real question about Osemele is whether he has the agility to hold off fast edge rushers, and Hali didn't get a sack. When the Chiefs had the ball, I watched Jah Reid, the Ravens' third-round pick in 2011, who flopped here but, improbably, has found a home as the starting right tackle on a playoff-bound team. Much like Osemele held off Hali, Reid kept the Ravens' Elvis Dumervil from registering either a sack or a quarterback hit. Most in Baltimore probably can't imagine Reid as the answer to any question but it's to his great credit that he kept working hard as he struggled here. That hard work has paid off.
Buck Allen learned fumbles are like an insurance policy when you play for Harbaugh. You get one for free, sort of like the deductible after a fender-bender. But after you exhaust that deductible, you pay … My two cents: Lose the mustard-gold pants … For the second week in a row, quarterback Jimmy Clausen battled hard and was a positive factor in a lopsided loss. Rookie receiver Daniel Brown slipped on the pick-six Clausen threw that sealed the outcome. If I'm the Ravens, I give Clausen another start in next week's home finale against Pittsburgh.