Ravens Three-And-Out: Week 4 vs. Raiders
For the second consecutive week, the Baltimore Ravens were hoping to get Justin Tucker in position to kick a potential game-winning field goal. But unlike in the previous three games, where the Ravens secured victory on a Tucker kick, he didn't even get the opportunity this week. Instead, Joe Flacco threw four straight incompletions and the Ravens ended their comeback bid by turning the ball over on downs.
This preserved a 28-27 win for the Oakland Raiders, giving them and the Ravens identical 3-1 records. But for the Ravens, this is the first time in 2016 that they have experienced the sting of defeat. Like so many of their losses in 2015, including a loss to this same Raiders team, it was a very winnable game for the Ravens. Ineffective offense late in the game, trouble with pass protection and poor pass defense ultimately led to the team's first loss of the season.
Week 4 Takeaways:
1. Terrence West takes control of run game while Justin Forsett is a healthy scratch.
The Ravens finally had a 100-yard rusher and they finally had a rushing touchdown from a running back. Terrance West was responsible for both, as he had 21 carries for a career-high 113 yards and he had a go-ahead three-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter. This was only West's second 100-yard rushing game in his NFL career, with his first coming two years ago during his NFL debut back when he was on the Cleveland Browns. It was a slow start for both West and the run game, as the Ravens only managed 39 rushing yards in the first half, but they continued grinding and eventually started picking up more yardage in the second half.
With last week's starting running back Justin Forsett being declared a healthy inactive, West averaged 5.4 yards per carry and he dominated the touches in the backfield. Javorius Allen was the only other active running back and he didn't make very much of an impact with just three rushes for 13 yards. Both Allen and Forsett clearly seem to have fallen out of favor with the coaches and now it looks as though West and rookie Kenneth Dixon will be the top two running backs on the depth chart. Dixon is slated to return to the Ravens possible as soon as Week 5 so between his upcoming return and West's play today, the Ravens can finally feel good about their running game.
2. The passing offense cannot capitalize against 32nd ranked pass defense.
The Ravens flipped the script a little in this game by running the ball well and struggling with passing. Yet even with West's 121 rushing yards, the Ravens didn't have a good day offensively. The run game was awful in the first half and the passing game was inconsistent throughout. Flacco was 32-of-52 for 398 yards and a touchdown and though he didn't throw an interception, he lost a fumble as a result of the Raiders' pass rush.
Steve Smith Sr. was the only Raven to really make an impact in the receiving game. He led the team in all receiving statistics, with eight catches for 111 yards and a crucial fourth quarter touchdown catch that went for 52 yards. Kyle Juszczyk did catch six passes for 56 yards, but almost all of those were short checkdowns when Flacco was under pressure. Drops were an issue for the team today, with both Kamar Aiken and Chris Moore failing to hold onto accurate Flacco passes that could have put them in field goal range during their final offensive drive of the game.
3. Defense falters in redzone, fails to bring heat on Derek Carr.
Though Derek Carr threw for four touchdowns this week, the Ravens' defense did not have a horrible day. The Ravens excelled particularly in defending the run where they only allowed 62 yards and recovered a fumble from DeAndre Washington. They also did well in stopping the Raiders on third down, holding them to 3-of-12 on third down attempts.
The big issue on defense was the lack of pass rush generated on Carr. They didn't sack Carr once and didn't even record a quarterback hit on him. Thanks to all the time he had, Carr was able to surgically take apart the Ravens' defense and especially Shareece Wright, who struggled mightily in defending Michael Crabtree. The team also didn't do well in the redzone where Oakland scored touchdowns on all three of their trips.
The Ravens have to feel incredibly bad about this loss due to just how easily it could have been avoided. Some of that has to fall on the coaching too as John Harbaugh made two decisions that backfired for him. The first was going for a two-point conversion in the third quarter after Flacco's one-yard touchdown run. The Ravens were trailing 14-12 at that point and though it was a move that made sense for them at the time, it backfired mightily as they ended up losing by just one point.
The second decision that backfired for the Ravens was Harbaugh's choice to accept a third down unnecessary roughness penalty that pushed the Raiders back to 3rd-and-17. Had he declined the penalty, the Raiders would have had a fourth down and they would have likely kicked a field goal to take a 17-12 lead. Instead, the Raiders converted the 3rd-and-17 and were able to pull ahead 21-12 with a 13-yard receiving touchdown from Crabtree just a couple plays later. It's a play that hurts in hindsight as it could have really made a difference in the final outcome.
Another disturbing trend to come from this loss was just how many hits Flacco was taking. The Raiders only sacked him twice, but their star defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack was constantly making his presence known with vicious hits. Flacco suffered six QB hits and a lot of that falls on left tackle James Hurst and left guard Ryan Jensen.
Those players had come in for original starters Ronnie Stanley (foot injury) and Alex Lewis (concussion). Stanley missed the game entirely, his first miss at the collegiate level or the pro level. Lewis was dressed, but was being held out so that he could recover from his injury and also because he had missed practice. Their replacements, despite having played in the NFL longer than either of those two rookies, were not successful in protecting Flacco and the Ravens have to hope that both Stanley and Lewis can return from their injuries soon.
The Ravens will remain at home for next week's game against the 2-2 Washington Redskins. The Battle of the Beltway rivalry game comes against a Redskins game that has won two straight and has looked impressive on offense the last two weeks. The Ravens will almost certainly need a bounce-back win here if they are to keep at least a share of first place in the AFC North.
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