Sun, 03 Dec 2023

The Breakdown: Mink's Five Thoughts on Loss to Colts

Baltimore Ravens
25 Sep 2023, 23:25 GMT+10

Ryan Mink

The wind that was behind the Ravens' sails following last week's win in Cincinnati was replaced by a depressing rain and frustrating loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

In a game the Ravens had several chances at winning, they ended up falling in overtime, 22-19, on a walk-off 53-yard field goal.

The loss drops the Ravens to 2-1 and knocks them off their early pedestal atop the AFC North.

Here are my five thoughts:

Ravens found numerous ways to lose the game.

More games are lost than won in the NFL. The Ravens lost this game.

Four straight offensive drives in the first half ended with fumbles.

They bungled the end of regulation with a chance to milk the clock.

Their offense, given two golden opportunities to win the game in overtime, choked.

"We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away," quarterback Lamar Jackson said. "Great field position [and] we didn't move the ball at all. That ticked me off. It ticked all of us."

The Ravens came into this game limping with seven key starters ruled out, and they lost a couple more key players during the game in running back Gus Edwards (concussion protocol) and outside linebacker David Ojabo (ankle), putting those two position groups on life support.

Still, the Ravens had enough to win. They had a quarterback the Colts struggled to wrangle and a defense that, for the most part, put up another strong performance - certainly good enough to win.

When Gardner Minshew stepped out of the back of the end zone with just more than two minutes left, giving the Ravens a three-point lead and the ball in their hands, M&T Bank Stadium was rocking. The game seemed over.

The Ravens fumbled it away, literally at the start and figuratively down the stretch.

"I thought the game was over then," outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said. "We put our offense in a position to win the game, or we thought we did. Especially at home, we just want to get away with the win at home. Today, we let one slip away."

Jackson's legs aren't enough to bail out the offense.

Jackson is going to run less in Todd Monken's new offense, but they'll do whatever it takes to win a given game. With a wet ball and short-handed running back corps, Monken left the ball in Jackson's hands.

The plan generally worked, as Jackson ran for two touchdowns for the first time since Week 2 of the 2021 season and topped 100 rushing yards for the first time since Week 3 of last year. He often dodged and weaved through the Colts defense.

Besides that, however, the offense was lacking punches. They took no shots down the field to the wide receivers. Jackson threw for just 202 yards. Zay Flowers led the receivers with a whopping eight catches on 10 targets, but he got just 48 yards on those grabs.

The Ravens dinked and dunked down the field, a strategy that theoretically should be lower risk, except Baltimore fumbled four times.

Even though Jackson's legs were the Ravens' best weapon, he didn't run the ball once in overtime when the Ravens probably only needed to get one first down (maybe not even) twice. That would seem to raise a red flag except for the fact that the strategy should have worked.

Flowers was wide open on a critical third-and-6 on the first drive in overtime, but Jackson's throw was behind him, perhaps because he thought Flowers was going to stop his route or because Jackson just missed him. Then tight end Isaiah Likely had the ball in his stomach on a third-and-3 catch that would've easily put Tucker in range, but he dropped. The play calls worked. The execution did not.

Baltimore's special teams unit needs to work out the kinks.

Like clockwork, the Ravens have had one of the best special teams units in the league year in and year out. Yet Baltimore entered this game ranked last in the NFL in DVOA - foreign territory.

A week after allowing a punt return for a touchdown, the Ravens were again outplayed on special teams.

With four field goals from beyond 50 yards, including the game winner, Matt Gay outshined the G.O.A.T, Justin Tucker, whose chance to win it from 61 yards out at the end of regulation fell just short.

Worse than that, the Ravens committed a costly error by fair catching a free kick near the end of regulation that Flowers should have returned to bleed enough time off the clock to get to the two-minute warning. Instead, the Ravens essentially gave the Colts a free timeout before their game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens originally thought the two-minute warning had already passed, and when officials added more time to the clock following the safety, they weren't able to get the change of plans communicated to Flowers in time.

After the ensuing drive only took 15 seconds off the clock, Jordan Stout hit a sky-high punt only 38 yards. With good starting field position, the Colts moved into field-goal range to tie the game. The Ravens also gave up a 32-yard punt return, on just a 44-yard punt, in the third quarter that put the Colts in good starting field position on a drive that ended with a field goal.

The special teams unit made some good plays too. Devin Duvernay's 31-yard punt return in overtime set the offense up in Colts territory to start the drive. Stout's 53-yard punt in the fourth quarter, downed at the 2-yard line, helped set up the safety.

But we're not used to seeing the Ravens' special teams unit be so inconsistent, and that needs to change.

Kyle Hamilton's versatility pays off again.

With the Ravens suffering yet another injury in their secondary to slot cornerback Ar'Darius Washington (pectoral), Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald turned back to last year's winning formula and moved Kyle Hamilton into the slot.

That was definitely the right move, as Hamilton was the defense's best player on the field Sunday.

Hamilton had zero sacks in his three seasons at Notre Dame. He had two sacks his rookie year in the NFL. He had three sacks in the first half Sunday.

Hamilton came off the left edge on what looked to be the same, or similar, blitzes each time and pounced on Minshew before he could pull the trigger. Hamilton also had a deflected pass at the line of scrimmage and registered nine tackles.

"[The] coaches do a good job of sprinkling me in there every now and then - keeping it fresh. [It] doesn't leave my mind," Hamilton said of playing slot corner. "Honestly, that's probably about as unblocked as you can get. You have to make your layups."

If only the offense didn't miss so many layups.

Extra Points In today's NFL where the receiver is often given the advantage against cornerbacks, it was very surprising not to see a flag come out on the critical fourth-down pass to Flowers in overtime. With all the mistakes they made, the Ravens have no room to blame that for the loss, but it was a huge no-call. The first time it felt like the Ravens should have won this game came all the way in the first quarter. Baltimore's opening offensive drive for a touchdown was a thing of beauty and when Kenyan Drake took off for a 24-yard catch and run deep into Colts territory, it felt like M&T Bank Stadium might have a big party in the rain. His fumble killed that notion and seemed to change the game's momentum. Rashod Bateman finished the game standing on the sideline without his helmet. He said his hamstring tightened up on him. The Ravens' injuries continue to pile up. They need to get some players back, badly. While the defense played well overall, giving up 122 rushing yards to Zach Moss wasn't on the BINGO card. The absence of Odafe Oweh (ankle) hurts holding the edge, where a couple long runs leaked, but that's still not acceptable for this defense. The Ravens have back-to-back AFC North road games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh next. Then it's off to London. It's a tough stretch, and I have a feeling this loss will leave them hungry for a rebound. "It was one of those games that you look back on at the end of the year, and you thought it made you better," tight end Mark Andrews said.

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