Five thoughts on the Ravens' 24-20 loss to the New York Giants:
Self-inflicted wounds kill the Ravens.
It was clear Sunday that the Ravens are a better football team than the Giants, but that doesn't matter when you beat yourself. The Ravens shot themselves in the foot all day, then dealt themselves the killer blows late in the fourth quarter. They've blown fourth-quarter leads in all three losses this year.
Even though this one wasn't in front of the home fans, it's the most painful. This wasn't the mighty Buffalo Bills mounting a comeback. This wasn't Tyreek Hill blazing past defenders, as he's known to do. This was a team that had far less firepower, that had been held in check almost all day, taking a gift.
The Ravens outgained the Giants in total yards, 406-238. Baltimore held Giants running back Saquon Barkley to 83 yards on 22 runs (3.8 per run). Giants quarterback Daniel Jones threw for just 173 yards and was sacked four times. That should add up to a Ravens win.
The Giants were only in the game because the Ravens let them be. And even despite that, when Baltimore had what should have been a comfortable 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Ravens found a way to cough it up with a smorgasbord of mistakes – penalties, turnovers, drops, etc.
The lack of "finishing" is a difficult one to swallow because there's no clear fix. The individual mistakes that led to another letdown can be ironed out in film study and practice. But how, exactly, do you "finish" better? Is it a mindset? For whatever reason, the Ravens aren't executing in those critical moments with the game on the line, at least not consistently enough. They have to figure out why.
Last season, the Ravens probably weren't as good as their record indicated when they sat atop the AFC after 12 weeks. This year, they're better than their 3-3 mark through six weeks. As Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the game, "We have an opportunity to be a very good football team." The pieces are there, and the Ravens are going to keep getting stronger as star players get healthier.
But with every fourth-quarter collapse, it's harder to keep saying you're really good because really good teams don't keep doing this. In the end, it doesn't matter how good you are when deciding who makes the playoffs. It matters what your record is. These losses count on the tally, and the Ravens have to hope they don't bite them in the end.
Lamar Magic gives and it takes.
The killer was the back-to-back sequence in the fourth quarter with the Ravens offense leading by three points. They should have had a critical first down on a Lamar Jackson third-and-1 sneak, but that was wiped out by an illegal formation. On the next play, Tyler Linderbaum's snap came too early and got past Lamar Jackson. He quicky recovered, giving him a chance to make some magic.
That is the point where it's a give and take with Jackson's unreal playmaking ability. Sometimes, Jackson delights us by pulling a rabbit out of his hat. Other times, the trick fails. Jackson's athleticism brings great rewards and his competitiveness and overwhelming desire to win are two of his best traits. But they can also be some of his worst.
Jackson knew that was a huge play and didn't want to give up on it. So instead of throwing the ball away and letting the Ravens punt, he saw fullback Pat Ricard open and took a shot. Giants safety Jordan Love stepped in front to easily intercept it.
Jackson has thrown the ball away plenty of times this season, but he wants to finish games so badly that he's taking chances. He did so against the Bills with an end zone interception on fourth down that was the worst of all scenarios and he did so again against the Giants. Jackson also needed to protect the ball better on the Giants' game-sealing sack/strip by Kayvon Thibodeaux. All three were critical errors that ended up overshadowing his other spectacular plays.
Ravens penalties have to get cleaned up.
Baltimore started the year as one of the least penalized teams in the league, but they reared their ugly head in this loss. For as many stats lines as the Ravens dominated, the one that buried Baltimore was bright yellow. The Ravens were flagged for 10 penalties for 74 yards. The Giants had just three for 25.
The illegal formation penalty on the next-to-last drive can't happen. It's Week 6. Players have to know how to get lined up correctly and do it. Kenyan Drake said after the game that he still wasn't sure who was supposed to be on or off the line of scrimmage.
Odafe Oweh was also flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that turned a fourth-and-1 for the Giants into a free first down that put them in field-goal range. They got three points from that. It wasn't clear what exchange led to the penalty, but former Ravens guard Ben Bredeson left the scrum without his helmet and he surely didn't take it off himself. That can't happen either.
The Ravens had four false start penalties in the first half alone. They overcame most of them, but one backed them up to make a long Justin Tucker field-goal attempt even longer, and the kick clanged off the uprights. It wasn't a penalty, but the sack that Jackson took on the Ravens' opening drive might as well have been. It took Baltimore out of field-goal range. Baltimore should have had a big halftime lead but instead led by just three points.
The Ravens offensive line is rounding into form.
A positive from Sunday's loss is the performance of the running game, and specifically the offensive line. Even with J.K. Dobbins shut down for the second half due to knee tightness, the Ravens still had 211 rushing yards.
Drake ran for a whopping 119 yards on just 10 carries and immediately tipped his cap to his offensive linemen after the game. "I wasn't getting touched until the second level, so you have to give your hats off to the boys up front and the scheme that we kind of had for these boys this week," Drake said.
Ronnie Stanley's comeback has made an immediate difference, but it seems the overall gelling of this group, as well as the blocking of the tight ends, is what should be credited most. The Ravens are winning up front, and that was a major reason why they moved the ball so efficiently almost the entire game.
So long as Dobbins' knee was the result of being on the terrible MetLife Stadium turf, the Ravens should keep having success on the ground. That's an important development after the called running game got off to a slow start and is something the Ravens offense should be able to hang its hat on moving forward.
Oh, and Baltimore's offensive line also handled whatever Wink Martindale dialed up for blitzes. The Giants' pass rush wasn't an issue until their final strip, which was more of a coverage sack.
I get John Harbaugh's decision to take a 10-yard offensive pass interference penalty that took the Giants from fourth-and-1 at midfield to third-and-14. The Giants offense had picked up 31 yards on their first 16 offensive plays to that point. Harbaugh obviously figured the Giants would go for it and the Ravens' chances of stopping them on third-and-14 were better than fourth-and-1. The move bit them after the Giants completed a 16-yard pass and then marched down the field for a touchdown. Painful result but the right call when playing out the odds and circumstances. It's just tough to watch those kind of calls keep going the wrong way.
Mark Andrews had a possible touchdown catch clank off his facemask in the third quarter and Baltimore had to settle for a field goal. The Ravens were also fortunate that wasn't picked off. It went off the hands of one Giants defender before getting to Andrews and the tip absolutely threw Andrews off. After another 100-plus yard game from Andrews, nobody should be getting on him for that one. The deflection should've been picked off by a different Giants defender but fell to the turf. Both a missed opportunity and missed disaster.
Jackson has missed too many deep passes the past couple weeks. He overshot another potential long touchdown pass, this time for Andrews, after overshooting Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace last week. Add it to the should-haves that are holding Jackson and this offense back.
There was another penalty that didn't end up costing the Ravens but shouldn't happen. A.J. Klein is a smart player, but that was not a smart penalty he took at the end of the first half. That gave the Giants a shot at stealing a late field goal. Baltimore's defense bailed him out with good coverage and a Patrick Queen strip before Jones could unleash a Hail Mary.
Credit the Ravens' defensive line for a strong performance. Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike and Travis Jones all had sacks. Baltimore still needs more pressure from the edges, however. Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo can't get on the field soon enough.
The Ravens caught a break not getting flagged for delay game on the Jackson to Andrews 12-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Considering all the officiating mistakes that have hurt Baltimore so far this season, the Ravens were due one to go their way. The late pass interference that wiped a Marcus Peters interception off the board did not go the Ravens' way.