Five thoughts on the Ravens' 22-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
This Was A 60-Minute Psycho-Drama
On paper, the Ravens were playing another team. But really, they were playing themselves. It was the good Ravens against the evil Ravens in a 60-minute psycho-drama. The good Ravens came out of their bye week with a lot of energy, generated almost 400 yards of offense and played much tougher and better on defense. "I liked a lot of what I saw," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. But the evil Ravens also were on the field. That's the side of the team that did a darn good job of trying to give the game away with turnovers (four), penalties (nine for 121 yards) and dropped interceptions (two). The Ravens' good and evil sides battled back and forth all day, and just when it seemed the good Ravens had prevailed, the evil Ravens proved more resourceful, producing a near-impossible chain of last-second events that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. "I'm speechless," Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams said after an ending that will be hard to top as a gut-wrencher.
Loss Not All Dumervil's Fault
I'm sure plenty of people are going to blame Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil for giving the game away with his last-second facemask penalty, which put the Jaguars in position for Jason Myers' game-winning 53-yard field goal. (Which he blasted, by the way; the kick would have been good from 63.) The Ravens surely would have won if Dumervil hadn't grabbed Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' mask on a last-ditch play that seemingly was going nowhere. "I take full responsibility. That can't happen there," Dumervil said. But the game never should have come to that. Two plays earlier, Bortles lobbed an errant pass over the middle that Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis was in perfect position to intercept. The ball floated right to him. All he had to do was grab it. He didn't, giving the Jaguars another chance that they used to win. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith called the facemask penalty "a gift," but I'm having a hard time faulting Dumervil, who was active and disruptive all day (four tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and one pass defended) as much as Lewis, who literally had the game in his hands and let it fall to the ground.
Referees Got Three Big Calls Right Against Ravens
The game came down to Jacksonville's offense, down by a point, scrambling to try to get off a final play at midfield before the clock struck zero. Some Ravens didn't think the Jaguars got the snap off in time. They started celebrating, "Look on the film. You can see me jumping," Jimmy Smith said. Several Ravens actually headed for the locker room, thinking they had won. But as replays showed, the Jaguars DID get the snap off in time, by a sliver of a second, and also, somewhat miraculously, were set for the play. So let's be clear: the officials didn't blow anything on that play. They certainly didn't blow the facemask call, which was obvious. And while we're at it, they also didn't blow the personal foul on Will Hill III that got fans riled up late in the game. Hill bashed a defenseless receiver in the head/neck area and sent him into the concussion protocol. That gets flagged every time in today's NFL. Sorry. I guess I'm in no mood to hear about tough calls, bad breaks or dark clouds. The Ravens lost turnovers on four straight possessions in the second half, dropped multiple passes and picks and racked up a ton of penalties. That's why they lost.
Offense Produced Without Smith, Previewing Rest Of Season
The Ravens didn't have Steve Smith Sr., who is out for the year, and their running game never got into a rhythm against Jacksonville's top-10 rushing defense. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, it wasn't. Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman came up with some new wrinkles, including a three-tight-end set and more action for fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The passing game was crisp and productive, with quarterback Joe Flacco completing 34 passes to 10 different wide receivers, tight ends and backs. The Ravens moved the chains steadily. Kamar Aiken stepped in for Smith with seven receptions for 73 yards, although he did drop one catch early and let another skip through his hands to set up the first of Flacco's two interceptions. The team's trio of young tight ends also really excelled with a combined 11 catches for 117 yards, and Juszczyk was an effective weapon. I get the feeling that's what the passing game is going to look like for the rest of this season.
Quick TakesThe Ravens defense was vastly improved on third downs, denying the Jaguars on 12 of 16 attempts. Some bye-week adjustments included linebacker Zach Orr gaining more of a role. Arthur Brown also was on the field in some nickel situations … Jacksonville hadn't won a road game in almost two years, since December 1, 2013 … The Ravens forced their first turnover since Week 3 when Lardarius Webb intercepted a pass early in the second quarter. The offense immediately turned the break into a touchdown, scoring in two plays, illustrating how turnovers can impact games – and what the Ravens missed by going more than five games without one. For the record, their opponents went 66 possessions and 340 minutes without coughing one up.