Ravens Mastered Art Of Bittersweet Win
The Ravens have struggled to do a lot of things in 2015, but they've mastered the art of the bittersweet win. When they defeated the San Diego Chargers, they barely celebrated because receiver Steve Smith Sr. had suffered a torn Achilles and was lost for the season. This victory dwarfed that one in its range and strength of emotions. The Ravens played butt-ugly football, at least offensively, for three quarters, then rallied late to win, spreading smiles around the locker room. But the victory was mitigated, to say the least, by the losses of quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Justin Forsett, both of whom are out for the year after suffering injuries. "It feels surreal," said linebacker Elvis Dumervil of the idea of proceeding without Flacco, who has never missed a start since joining the Ravens in 2008. Forsett and Flacco will become the 17th and 18th Ravens to land on injured reserve. If any silver lining exists, it's that the Ravens have just about run out of marquee players who could ruin their next victory by getting hurt.
A Shame To Lose Flacco; Odds Finally Caught Up To Him
Flacco's knee injury, a torn ACL suffered on the game's final possession, brings to a close the fifth-longest endurance streak in NFL history. By playing Sunday, he extended his run to 137 straight starts (including playoffs) – incredible stuff considering how many hits he has absorbed over the years and how often quarterbacks go down today, even with officials now seemingly throwing flags at any defender who so much as breathes on them. Flacco has always maintained that, while he is proud of his durability, he was blessed by good fortune to avoid a serious injury, many of which occur in relatively light contact, on plays that don't look threatening. That's exactly what happened to him Sunday. It's sad and a shame, not to mention the last straw that caps 2015 as a lost season in Baltimore, but Flacco maintained his perspective in the locker room: "I'm really proud of it," he said of his streak, "but I'm fortunate I was able to go that long." Basically, the odds finally caught up with him.
Forsett And Flacco Injuries Underscore Ravens' Sad Destiny
You know it's a rough day when your Pro Bowl running back goes down with a gruesome broken arm and that's not even the injury everyone is talking about in the locker room. But it took the shock of Flacco* *going down to shove Forsett's injury into the shadows. As in Flacco's case, it's sad, a shame and underscores the fact that the Ravens simply weren't destined to enjoy success in 2015. Forsett deserves better. Since coming to Baltimore as a fringe player contemplating retirement, he has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber back, team leader and role model for younger teammates. His replacement, Buck Allen, said he had no doubt Forsett would be right with him, providing counsel, for the rest of the season. Allen looked good, by the way. Making the most of his opportunity, he ran tough against a tough defense, breaking tackles and picking up key yards. With Allen and Terrance West, the Ravens might be better able to withstand the loss of Forsett than the losses of the other key guys who have gone down.
Better Late Than Never
For the longest time Sunday, the Ravens didn't play well enough to win, at least offensively. In the first three quarters, they managed just three points and nine first downs while losing two turnovers and committing nine penalties worth 132 yards. Let's not mince words. That was brutal, difficult to watch. But St. Louis was no better. The Rams kept fumbling in their end of the field, and their quarterback, Case Keenum, didn't really look like an NFL-caliber signal-caller. (He was replacing the benched Nick Foles, who must have been playing really badly for the Rams to stick with Keenum.) As badly as the Ravens played for three quarters, the Rams' fumbles and inept offense kept them in the game. And then the Ravens finished strongly on both sides of the ball, a skill that has eluded them this year. Their defense forced turnovers and/or got off the field. Their offense moved the sticks and generated points. The penalties stopped. What's the old saying? Better late than never.
Even If It Was Against Rams, Defense Showing Improvement
Yes, that was Case Keenum across the line, at the helm of one of the NFL's lowest-ranked offenses. But the Ravens defense still warrants kudos for a formidable performance, continuing a modest uptick it has engineered in recent weeks. After showering praise all week on Todd Gurley, the Rams' rookie back, the Ravens kept him in check, limiting him to 2.6 yards per carry on 25 attempts. Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams was strong and disruptive at the point of attack, and his teammates followed his lead. Basically, the Ravens' run defense held firm, leaving it up to Keenum to win the game, a troubling scenario if you're St. Louis. He managed not to lose the game until the end, when the Ravens' Courtney Upshaw stripped him of the ball on a rush in the final minute, setting up Justin Tucker's winning field goal. After a day of generating turnovers, pressure and third-down stops, the defense looks better than it did a month ago.