Five thoughts on the Ravens' 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
This Was A Bad Loss For Ravens
When you start a season with three straight wins, it's hard to categorize your Week 5 game as a "must-win" contest. But this was a very big game for the Ravens. Back-to-back home losses are no way to construct a bounce-back season, especially knowing the schedule is about to get more difficult. With those high stakes as a backdrop, the Ravens opened with a long touchdown drive and dominated early. After that, though, their day disintegrated into an aggravating swirl of self-inflicted mistakes and missed opportunities, an offensive performance quarterback Joe Flacco called "embarrassing." The Redskins weren't sharp either, and incredibly, after getting virtually nothing from their offense in the final three quarters, the Ravens still had a chance to win in the final seconds. But after a touchdown pass to wide receiver Breshad Perriman was correctly overturned on replay and the offense again came up short, the Ravens were left to contemplate a defeat that pinned the needle to the very pinnacle of the frustration meter. "Sucks," Terrell Suggs said. Let's call it what it was: a bad loss.
Ravens Frustratingly Leave Points On The Table
Here's what was so frustrating: Even though the Ravens were woeful on offense, generating just three points and 160 yards in the last three quarters, they still left so many points on the field that it takes more than two hands to perform the calculations. In the second quarter, Perriman got behind a defender but let a perfectly-thrown deep ball fall through his hands. In the third quarter, linebacker C.J. Mosley made a brilliant, leaping interception and came within inches of returning it for a touchdown, but lost control of the ball and fumbled it through the end zone for a touchback, a devastating turnaround. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't want to absolve it as an "effort" mistake. "You've got to hold onto the ball there," he said. Harbaugh's decision to try a fake field goal on a fourth-and-12 play at the Washington 17 in the second quarter also went awry. The coach defended the "aggressive" call, saying he has played that way for nine years. I was in favor of taking the points with kicker Justin Tucker instead of risking coming away with nothing after linebacker Zachary Orr had brilliantly forced a fumble to set up the scoring chance. The Ravens certainly missed those points in the final seconds.
Taking Ball Out Of Terrance West's Hands Was Another Self-Inflicted Wound
As the Ravens rolled to a touchdown on their first possession, running back Terrence West provided the big play, a 35-yard run. By the end of the first quarter, he had rushed five times for 60 yards and it seemed he was headed for a huge day. Then he only had six more carries all day. That's right, just six in the final three quarters for West. They were gainful rushes, too, as he added 35 yards to his total to finish with 95 for the day, averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Harbaugh said after the game that he didn't believe Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman had abandoned the running game, but the numbers say otherwise. The Ravens ran 45 plays in the final three quarters, and only eight were runs. I bet the Redskins were happy about that. Washington's defense looked soft against the run but did a much better job all day against the Ravens' struggling passing game, which lost its top receiver, Steve Smith Sr., to an ankle injury in the first half. In the end, it was a close, low-scoring game, the kind in which a solid ground game can make the difference, but Flacco dropped back on 50 of the Ravens' 69 snaps, not counting the fake field goal. My two cents, that belongs on the list of self-inflicted wounds.
Biggest Problem Is Ravens' Passing Game
I don't mean to pick on the passing game. Numerous other factors contributed to this result. The Ravens' struggling punt coverage unit allowed an 85-yard touchdown return. That was rough. The Ravens lost four starters to injury during the game. That hurt. By the end, someone new was calling the defensive signals and four of the five offensive linemen were at positions they didn't play just a week ago. That's tough. But the biggest problem for the Ravens was and is their passing game. Smith's injury hurt Sunday, but as the players said, they have enough talent that they should be able to overcome that. What's going on? As always, it appears to be a combination of factors. Flacco is missing some targets. There also are key drops, like Perriman's on the long pass and also one by Mike Wallace on the Ravens' final snap. Too often, they're throwing well short of the chains on third down. "You've got to be patient, as patient as you can, and that's tough, man," Flacco said. Obviously, they need to get busy with a fix.
After Shareece Wright was scratched because of back spasms and his replacement, Sheldon Price went out with an injury, rookie Tavon Young played cornerback opposite Jimmy Smith and seemed to hold up nicely … On my scorecard, the Ravens defense played well enough to win, allowing just two scores, a touchdown and a field goal … Flacco was sacked three times and hit eight times, which is too many … The Redskins earned the win with some solid pass defense, but I think they'd say some breaks bounced their way, starting with Mosley's fumble. They also averted a late disaster when quarterback Kirk Cousins was able to corral a snap that went over his head and toss an incompletion. Then there was the Ravens' game-winning touchdown that was ruled incomplete because Perriman's second foot was, oh, about an inch into the sideline chalk. It was that kind of day for the Ravens.
Check out the best photos from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens battle the Redskins!