Five thoughts on the Ravens' 37-33 loss to the Oakland Raiders Sunday at O.co Coliseum:
Let's Not Sugarcoat – Ravens Couldn't Afford This Loss
The Ravens couldn't afford to lose this game, and they did, digging themselves a serious hole to start what had been a season of great expectations. Let's not sugarcoat what unfolded. A week after playing brilliantly in Denver, Baltimore's defense was shredded, opening a raft of questions about what's happening on that side of the ball in 2015. The offense put up enough points to win, but it blinked late when it settled for a field goal to take the lead rather than scoring a touchdown. That gave Oakland's offense a chance to win the game if it could drive down the field for a touchdown, and given how things had gone all day, you had to believe that was a real possibility. Sure enough, the Ravens defense had no answers and the Raiders scored the winning points. The disastrous result leaves the Ravens 0-2 for the first time in a decade, alone in last place in the AFC North. Their margin for error just evaporated heading into their upcoming doubleheader against the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. They need a sweep, and it's hard to envision one after seeing their defense get pushed around Sunday.
Check out the best photos from Oakland as the Ravens battle the Raiders in week 2 of the 2015 season.
Defensive Issues Not All About Missing Suggs
Yes, Terrell Suggs was missed. Clearly. But the defense's woes weren't simply a function of Suggs being out after suffering an Achilles injury last week. Far from it. Yes, the pass rush put little pressure on Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, who carved up Baltimore's secondary all day. Maybe Suggs would have helped change that, and either way, it's clear the pass rush is now a major issue. But give Carr credit for using his mobility to give himself time to make plays. He was just too quick and elusive for Baltimore's pressure, and I'm not sure Suggs would have changed that. As for the secondary, it seemed like 2014, not a good thing. Jimmy Smith was beaten for a long touchdown pass in the first minutes, and Oakland receivers seemingly ran free in the secondary all afternoon. I was interested to see if Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees could come up with some adjustments after Oakland scored 20 points in the first half, but nothing changed. There is a ton of work to be done on that side of the ball. Quite simply, the Ravens looked too slow to contain Oakland's quick, young players.
Offense Improved, But Lacked Killer Instinct
The Ravens offense bore no resemblance to the unit that struggled in Denver a week ago. It put together scoring drives of 66, 80, 80 and 77 yards in the first half alone, and then it put three straight scores on the board to give the Ravens a 33-30 lead in the fourth quarter. Joe Flacco had a triple-digit passer rating, made a ton of plays. Steve Smith Sr. seemingly wanted to win the game by himself, and nearly did. Aside from Smith, receiver Kamar Aiken and tight end Crockett Gillmore also delivered in the passing game, and backs Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro ran well. Most importantly, the pass protection was vastly improved, giving Flacco plenty of time. The only criticism of the offense was it lacked a killer instinct and had to settle for field goals twice in the fourth quarter. Scoring touchdowns in those situations could have changed things in the end. On one play, Smith just missed getting a second foot down after catching a pass in the end zone. The referees correctly waved off the catch.
Hill Holding Penalty Consistent With Refs' Other Flags
The Ravens thought they had come up with a game-saving play when Will Hill III made an interception on the goal line moments before Oakland scored the winning touchdown. The pick was negated by a referee's flag, a holding call. Looking at the replay, it was close, one of those plays with a lot of contact, a call could have gone either way. But the refs were calling things closely all day, especially in the secondary. A ton of flags fell, with Oakland getting penalized more often than the Ravens. In fact, the Raiders were penalized so heavily that at times it seemed they were trying to hand the game to the Ravens, only the Ravens wouldn't take it. In any case, while the Ravens surely wish the flag against Hill hadn't fallen, the penalty was in keeping with how things were called all day. Oh, and the personal foul call on Timmy Jernigan on the final drive was entirely warranted. He hit Carr way late.
Quick HitsThe losing performance came at the end of a week in which the Ravens stayed on the West Coast to practice rather than coming home, saving themselves many hours of travel time. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Friday he was pleased with the work week, but the result of the game would determine whether the experiment succeeded. He couldn't have liked what he saw … Sarah Thomas, in her inaugural year as the NFL's first female official, worked the game as the line judge … The Ravens are really going to miss the competitiveness of Smith Sr. when he's gone. When they quickly fell behind, he could barely contain himself, catching passes and shouting at the Baltimore bench, "Come on!" His enthusiasm helped the Ravens get back into the game … The Raiders didn't have a 100-yard rusher, but they pushed the Ravens' front around late in the game.