The Ravens lost a 28-27 heart-breaker against the Oakland Raiders (3-1) after taking their first lead late in the fourth quarter only to surrender it on the next series, never to regain it. Both the offense and defense had chances to seal the win, but came up short.
Here are nine takeaways from the AFC matchup:
1) We Got Answers About How Good Ravens Can Be
The Oakland Raiders were the first team the Ravens faced this season with a winning record. As such, there were going to be more answers as to how good Baltimore is since there was doubt after beating three teams who had a combined 1-8 record.
We may have gotten more answers about the Ravens in their loss to the Raiders than we did in their wins against the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars combine.
We'll dive more into them below, but …
- The Ravens are capable of beating a winning team, especially if they clean up self-inflicted mistakes.
- There is hope for the rushing attack.
- The defense is legit, having a better day than the score indicated against the league's No. 2 offense, which dropped to No. 5 after playing the Ravens.
- The Ravens offense is capable of moving the ball if the line protects Flacco. The unit actually outpaced the respected Raiders offense 412 total yards to 261.
Those are the positives.
But there's also a list of negatives that* *the Ravens need to clean up to get back on a winning streak. We will dive into that list below, which includes the pass protection, self-inflicted mistakes, protecting the deep ball on defense and attempting more deep throws on offense.
"This was a day for the Ravens to answer questions about how good they are against a legitimately talented, winning team," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker.
"Their defense passed the test, largely containing a Raiders attack that came in second in the league in total yardage. Their offense, on the other hand, stumbled for much of the day against one of the league's worst defenses. On the plus side, Terrance West played well, gaining more than 100 yards in his first start at running back. But an offensive line with two starters missing struggled to protect quarterback Joe Flacco and committed far too many penalties. You can never question this team's resilience, however. They find ways to make every game close."
2) Top Priority Is Getting Joe Flacco Better Protection
One couldn't help but think how fortunate the Ravens were that quarterback Joe Flacco said he felt "good" after the game despite taking a beating from the Raiders.
The same luck couldn't be said for the Denver Broncos, who watched Trevor Siemian carted off the field with a shoulder injury. Or for the Carolina Panthers or Arizona Cardinals, who watched Cam Newton and Carson Palmer leave their games with concussions.
"Of all the concerns the Ravens currently have, pass protection is at the top of the list," ESPN wrote. "If the Ravens want to be considered a top team in this league, Baltimore has to figure out a way to better protect quarterback Joe Flacco and his surgically repaired left knee. The Ravens will only go as far as a healthy Flacco takes them."
Flacco was hit six times by the Raiders, sacked twice and under pressure for 38.9 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Through the first quarter of the season, only Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston and Indy's Andrew Luck have been pressured more, per ESPN. The unit was also called for five offensive holding penalties (three in passing situations).
The difference in Flacco's effectiveness was night and day when he has a clean pocket.
He completed 7 of 17 passes (41 percent) for 42 yards while under pressure, but was 25 of 35 (71 percent) for 256 yards when protected, per ESPN.
"The difference in the game was [the Ravens] offensive line, which, on passing plays, was overmatched to the point that it's a minor miracle Joe Flacco made it out with all his limbs intact," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Mark Selig.
This will lead to a whole lot of interest in how the rookie offensive linemen are listed on the Ravens' injury report this week …
3) All Eyes Will Be On Injury Report For Clues About Ronnie Stanley's Return
A major reason for the Ravens' protection issues was that starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and starting left guard Alex Lewis (concussion) were on the bench.
Their backups, James Hurst and Ryan Jensen, allowed a combined 11 pressures, per PFF. Not all the blame can be placed on them, as right tackle Rick Wagner struggled against Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack too. Right guard Marshal Yanda and center Jeremy Zuttah received two of the five best offensive grades from PFF.
After the game, Hurst owned up to a poor performance.
"I thought the first half against [Mack], I didn't have too many good sets against him. He got me with the inside move to pressure Joe, and then I think he got me with a slip to the outside. But in the second half, I felt like we came out and I played a little bit better, and we got some momentum as a unit together, which helps everything and helps everybody."
Reporters talked with Stanley after the game to see if he will return for the Week 5 matchup against the Washington Redskins, but the sixth-overall pick didn't give any clues. That will likely have to wait until the injury report comes out Wednesday afternoon (unless Terrell Suggs wants to make any more announcements).
"The Ravens must hope Stanley and Lewis get back quickly, because Flacco may take a pounding in the interim," wrote CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown.
4) Self-Inflicted Mistakes Hurt
Nothing is more frustrating than self-inflicted mistakes. That goes for any NFL team.
You can't expect the Ravens to beat winning teams when they commit 10 penalties for 105 yards. Sure, the Raiders had 12 penalties and for 93 yards, but that provides little consolation.
"We kept the pressure on ourselves too much," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "What we needed to do was put the pressure on our opponents more than ourselves. Those are the things that hurt us."
5) Defense Better Than Final Score Indicated, But Allowed Go-Ahead Touchdown
Quarterback Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes to propel his team to 28 points, but that stat is misleading as to how the Ravens defensive unit played overall.
Two of those touchdowns came after the special teams and offensive units put the defense in tough spots. The Ravens allowed a punt return to the 6-yard line, and a Flacco fumble put the ball on the Ravens' 29 for Oakland. It was too much for the defense to overcome.
"[The] Ravens defense was better than the final score might indicate," wrote The Sun's Peter Schmuck.
"Statistically, the Ravens defense continued to play like one of the best units in the league, allowing a total of just 261 net yards to a very good Oakland Raiders offense. They stopped the run – giving up just 62 yards – and held quarterback Derek Carr under 200 yards passing. That's important because it was difficult to gauge just how good the defense has been over the previous three games because of the quality of the competition."
That said, the defense can't blame anyone for the 66-yard game-winning drive in the fourth quarter that gave back the lead to the Raiders for good.
On the touchdown that sealed the win, safety Lardarius Webb was on the sideline (concussion protocol) when Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree put a move on cornerback Shareece Wright that gave him separation, and backup safety Kendrick Lewis wasn't able to help in time.
"Hard to understand how the Ravens defense allowed Michael Crabtree to get behind it with the Raiders needing a touchdown to flip the scoreboard," wrote ESPN's Kevin Seifert. "I know that no one likes [the] 'prevent' defense, but in the red zone it usually works."
6) There's Hope Yet For Ravens Running Game; Terrance West Earned Another Start
Don't give up on the running game just yet.
The Ravens shook things up by deactivating starter Justin Forsett, activating Javorius Allen and giving Terrance West the start. West showed the coaches made the right move by notching a career-high 113-yard day and adding a rushing touchdown for an exclamation point.
It's important to note that Oakland boasted the league's third-worst rushing defense coming into the game, but it was still an important outing for West.
"West did more than enough to earn another start," wrote Brown.
While West provided sound proof that there is hope for the Ravens' ground attack, questions still loom.
"The running back rotation will get more interesting when rookie Kenneth Dixon (knee) returns, maybe next week," wrote Brown. "You have to wonder how, or if, Forsett will fit in."
By the way, for all those who were ready to give up on the ground game altogether, here's another stat that shows the Ravens offense is better when it's balanced.
"The Ravens asked Flacco to throw the ball 52 times, which isn't usually a good idea," wrote CBSSports.com's John Breech. "Baltimore is 0-5 all-time in games where Flacco throws 52 or more passes."
7) More Deep Passes, Please
One of the Ravens' strengths on offense is their speed at the receiver position and the ability to go deep, especially with Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman on the roster.
Perhaps because opposing defenses are playing to take away the deep ball, the Ravens have largely become a dink-and-dunk team.
8) With Ravens & Patriots Falling, Only Three Remaining Undefeated Teams
Only three undefeated teams remain after the Ravens and Patriots lost Sunday.
The Pats took a beating from the Buffalo Bills, who the Ravens got little credit for beating Week 1. The Bills shut down the Patriots offense, holding it to 0 points. Head Coach Bill Belichick took his frustration out on a tablet.
The three remaining unbeaten teams include the Broncos (4-0), Vikings (3-0) and Eagles (3-0). The Vikings will try to maintain their perfect record tonight against the New York Giants while the Eagles enjoy a bye week.
9) Ice Cube's Son Is A Ravens Fan
Probably the most important takeaway from Sunday is that Ice Cube's son is a Ravens fan, much to the disdain of his father.
The rapper from Compton, Calif. has always been a staunch Raiders fan from team's days in L.A. He posted a picture from M&T Bank Stadium with his son sporting Ravens gear, and he blames Ray Lewis for the dissension in the family.