Five thoughts on the Ravens' 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Sloppy Play Costs RavensThe Ravens played clean football in winning three of their first four games, limiting their turnovers, sacks and penalties. They were a lot sloppier Sunday. They lost two fumbles in the first nine minutes. Joe Flacco was under pressure all day, as his line, especially rookie tackle James Hurst, struggled to protect him. Flacco threw a crucial interception. Though only officially tagged with five penalties, they were flagged a lot more often on calls that were declined. The Colts were favored by a field goal and they're tough at home, so it figured the Ravens might struggle to win even if they played another solid game. But they did not. A valiant effort from their defense, which forced four turnovers, kept things close and gave them a chance. Honestly, it was a minor miracle that they had possession and a chance to tie the score in the final minute. But in the end, they were too sloppy to pull this one out.
Offense Never Found Its Rhythm
Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's system is based on establishing a rhythm, grinding out yards with the running game and using that to set up the passing game. But the unit never found a rhythm Sunday. "Maybe in the last few minutes, but not until then," running back Justin Forsett said. Give the Colts credit for deploying an aggressive scheme; they brought the heat all day and it worked. Knocked off balance, the Ravens offense hit for the cycle early, experiencing problems with protection, field position, turnovers and penalties. It seemed to find its feet with two drives in the second quarter, one that produced a field goal and another that ended with a failed fourth-and-1 in the red zone. But the Colts' pressure persisted, Flacco threw an interception in the third quarter and the lack of rhythm endured. "When someone is that aggressive, you have to make them pay and we didn't do that enough," Flacco said.
Jacoby Jones Deserves More Chances
After the Colts scored the game's first touchdown to take a 10-point lead in the third quarter, the ensuing kickoff almost sailed out of the end zone. That was OK; starting a drive at the 20 probably didn't seem like a bad idea to the Ravens. But Jacoby Jones grabbed the ball under the goal post and brought it out, trying to make something happen. He had fumbled a punt in the second quarter and obviously wanted to make amends. But he didn't. He was tackled at the 14, so the Ravens' field-position issues continued. It wasn't the first time this season that Jones has exhibited dubious judgment. Drops have cost him snaps in the wideout rotation, and now he's making mistakes and forcing things in the return game. The easy thing to do is suggest the Ravens give the return job to someone else, and certainly, they can't go on forever like this. But Jones is a major weapon who has done great things for the franchise. Once he gets going, he's a game changer. I say give him more rope. Maybe his big play in the fourth quarter, a 30-yard reception, will get him going.
Despite What Stats Say, Good Outing vs. No. 1 OffenseIt's probably overstating the case to say the Ravens defense played a great game when the Colts dominated time of possession and rolled up 26 first downs and more than 400 yards of offense. But the defense did give an impressive effort against what might be the NFL's most potent offense. Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley was all over the field, posting eight unassisted tackles, six assists and an interception. The secondary benefitted from the return of cornerback Lardarius Webb, who barely played in the first month because of a back injury. Webb struggled at times in single coverage, but for his first game back, he battled hard and held up well, finishing with six tackles and two passes defended. The Colts did put together two long touchdown drives in the second half and were on their way to a third until safety Matt Elam forced a fumble – precisely the kind of play the defense didn't make a year ago, when getting off the field late in games was such an issue. So all in all, despite what the stats say, it was an encouraging performance on the road against a top-caliber offense.
After failing on a fourth-and-inches play at the Indianapolis 3 in the second quarter, the Ravens are 2-for-5 on fourth down conversions in 2014. I didn't mind them going for it in that situation, but I didn't agree with the call, a passing play at a time in the game when the offensive line was having major protection problems. (Flacco was sacked.) My two cents, just run it … It was no surprise to see Terrell Suggs and Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano exchange a hug and a handshake. They're close. But they did it on the field during a timeout in the first quarter. That was different … The Ravens have still never won in Indianapolis … The key play of the game was Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck's 28-yard completion to Reggie Wayne on third-and-9 late in the fourth quarter. The Ravens had scored to cut the lead to seven, and with a stop, would get the ball back with plenty of time. But Luck made a terrific play.