No One Talking About Torrey Smith Injury
NFL media declared Torrey Smith's one-handed juggling touchdown catch the best of Week 13. After that, he didn't stop. He led all Ravens receivers with six catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns.
But then he suddenly went missing in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens needed him most in a tight battle.
And "no one is talking about" what happened, declared one ESPN headline.
"That's something that coach [John Harbaugh] will have to address," Smith told reporters after the game when asked about his injury. "I don't know when I am supposed to be going and when I am not supposed to be going. I'll let coach handle it."
But, not surprisingly, Head Coach John Harbaugh preferred not to talk about it either.
This is what we know:
Smith wasn't on the field for the Ravens' final two offensive drives. Instead, it was Kamar Aiken lining up* *in his spot. Smith's last target was in the fourth quarter with 7:43 left. He dropped a touchdown catch, but ...
Smith landed on his knee, but didn't appear to be injured. Media noticed Smith limping and* *receiving medical attention on the sideline.
"Torrey Smith not on the field for this big #Ravens drive. Getting attention from trainers on the bench," tweeted The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli. "Torrey Smith is limping on the sidelines, gesturing to his right knee."
It's unclear how serious his injury is, but it was big enough to miss two of the biggest drives of the season with the Ravens' playoff hopes on the line. Ravens fans hope it is not a long-term issue, as Smith has become the top receiver in the second half of the season. He's* *caught seven touchdown passes in the last seven games.
On top of Smith's injury, second-year receiver Marlon Brown left the game with a concussion after getting off to a hot start with three catches for 25 yards, including a beautiful one-handed snag of his own. Meanwhile, Steve Smith Sr. had just one catch for 2 yards. The Ravens are also waiting on the return of injured rookie wideout Michael Campanaro (hamstring).
Getting Torrey Smith back healthy is critical to the team's playoff aspirations.
"Losing Marlon Brown and Torrey Smith could be worse than the actual loss," wrote Meoli.
That's saying a lot considering …
Loss May Have Cost Ravens A Playoff Berth
The 34-33 loss to the Chargers wasn't just any loss.
"It] was easily one of the most difficult regular-season defeats [in the John Harbaugh era," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Because they were leading for 55 minutes, but lost the lead in the 38 seconds that mattered most. Because they had a chance to grab an edge for a wild-card spot, and hold onto it down the stretch. Because they could have built a lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in the AFC North, and remained just a half-game behind the Cincinnati Bengals. Because the Ravens were 10-2 under Harbaugh when leading by double digits entering the fourth quarter. Because the Ravens were 30-1 under Harbaugh when scoring at least 30 points in a game.
But it all slipped away when Philip Rivers carved up the secondary, scoring touchdowns on Chargers' final two drives of the game.
"There's no way to sugarcoat this one," wrote Zrebiec. "Unless the Ravens beat the Miami Dolphins next Sunday and then win out, this loss could very well cost them a playoff berth."
What Ravens Have Going For Them In Final Stretch
The Ravens are No. 8 in the AFC playoff race – a race that only allows six teams to advance to the postseason.
But as dubious as the playoff picture appears, the Ravens do have something going for them in the final quarter of the season.
The schedule plays in their favor, says The Sun's Peter Schmuck.
"The Bengals can be caught, and the Ravens need to catch them, because they aren't in a great wild-card tiebreaker situation with a 2-3 division record and a 3-5 record in the conference."
Below are the remaining schedules of key contenders:
|at Miami||Pittsburgh||at Cincinnati||Indianapolis||New England||at New York Jets||at Arizona|
|Jacksonville||at Cleveland||at Atlanta||Cincinnati||Denver||Baltimore||Oakland|
|at Houston||Denver||Kansas City||at Carolina||at San Francisco||at New England||at Pittsburgh|
|Cleveland||at Pittsburgh||Cincinnati||at Baltimore||at Kansas City||Minnesota||San Diego|
|New York Jets|
"So, what needs to happen? The Ravens need to win out and hope the Bengals and the Steelers both split their remaining four games," wrote Schmuck.
"That's no easy task, especially with a pretty good Dolphins [team] waiting for them next week in Miami. But it's all still possible, which is about all anyone can ask for after the Ravens blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday."
Worst Secondary In Ravens History?
A common theme among analysts on why the Ravens fell in the final minutes to the Chargers:
"T]hey let it slip away for one simple reason: Their [defense can’t handle premier quarterbacks," wrote John Eisenberg.
"By now, it should be pretty obvious: If they can't get to a[n] upper-echelon quarterback and the opposition is not gift-wrapping turnovers, the Ravens can't stop anyone," added Zrebiec.
“[P]remier quarterbacks make the Ravens look like a junior varsity secondary," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
There's more, but you get the idea.
The Ravens defense is ranked 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game. Only the Atlanta Falcons are worse. Against upper-echelon quarterbacks in Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, the secondary gave up a combined 1,143 yards (average of 381 yards) and 12 touchdowns in the month of November.
As Hensley ponders on the Ravens' 19-year history, he can't remember a time when the secondary has played worse.
"This secondary is arguably the worst in the NFL and the worst in franchise history," he wrote.
Revisiting 'Unfair' Levine Penalty
Before we get into this, allow me to put out a disclaimer or two.
The penalties seemed to be divvied out evenly between the Ravens and Chargers, so it's not like the refs were one-sided with the yellow flags yesterday. And perhaps more importantly, the Ravens defense is to blame for giving up 383 yards and three touchdowns to Rivers.
Having said that, it's worth diving into the pass interference call on Anthony Levine. The flag proved to be huge because it set up the go-ahead touchdown for San Diego. Take a look at the play below, and decide whether Harbaugh has a legitimate complaint.
"My understanding is both players – the offensive and defensive players – are supposed to have an opportunity to make a play on the ball," Harbaugh said after the game. "I saw a corner trying to make a play on the ball with a forearm in his chest and clavicle area being held down, not allowed to jump for the ball. That's disappointing in that situation. I think a corner should be given a chance to defend. I know he wasn't given a chance to defend on that play. That's not fair to the player."
I tend to agree with Harbaugh, but former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira agreed with the call, writing on Twitter: "That's about as clear interference as can be."
Bengals Squeak Out Win With Illegal Challenge Flag
A Bengals loss would have done wonders for the Ravens' playoff hopes, but Cincy squeaked out a 14-13 victory over the now 2-10 Tampa Bay Bucs.
In part, Cincinnati was able to do it with what CBSSports.com' called "accidental genius" on the part of Head Coach Marvin Lewis.
The Bucs had set up a would-be-game-winning field goal with a 21-yard completion to the 20-yard line, but the officials missed Tampa Bay having 12 men on the field. Before the Bucs could quickly snap the ball to set up the kick, Lewis pulled out a red challenge flag.
The only problem is that throwing a challenge flag is illegal in the final two minutes of the game.
"That's not good ... except it's great," wrote CBSSports.com's Will Brinson. "Because instead of having an extra timeout, the replay official used Marvin's stoppage of play to review the previous play, overturn the completion and push the Bucs five yards further back from the previous spot."
Three plays later, the Bucs turned the ball over on downs and the Bengals extended their lead in the AFC North.
- Janay Rice, in her own words. [ESPN]
- Hensley didn’t like one of the Ravens’ play calls at the end of the game. "With 2:32 left in the game, the Ravens decided to throw the ball on third down-and-four instead of running it. The Chargers couldn't stop the clock because they had used all their timeouts, and the Ravens only ran five seconds off the clock after Joe Flacco's incomplete pass."
- Mike Preston disagrees with Hensley, and says the Ravens made the right call. "If he had run the ball, the Ravens could have used more clock. "But I agree with Harbaugh," he wrote. "His defense was pathetic and if the Ravens had gotten a first down in that situation, the game was over. The preference was to put the game in the hands of a hot offense, not an ineffective defense." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Let's take another look at Brown's one-handed grab. Hopefully he gets better soon. [Vine]
@Ravens: #Ravens S