Live by the OT field goal, die by the OT field goal. This was a “die” week for the Ravens, as Robbie Gould of the Bears barely slipped a 38-yarder inside the uprights at 8:46 of overtime to put an end to a long, wet, and windy day in Chicago.
The final score of 23-20 drops the Ravens to 4-6 on the season – placing them in a precarious position of likely needing to win at least five of the final six games to have any shot at the playoffs.
But the day was not a total loss for Baltimore. The running game was rediscovered by a fellow named Ray Rice. But since I started at the end, let’s be a bit different and work our way backwards toward the beginning of the game.
Overtime: The Ravens won the toss and elected to receive. After moving the ball from their own 36 to the Bears 46, they were forced to punt … Bears taking the ball at their own 20.
The winning score was especially set up by the Bears with a 43-yard completion from Josh McCown to Martellus Bennett. But a third-and-nine completion to a wide-open Alshon Jeffrey on the previous play sustained the drive and was honestly just as significant. Bunching three receivers to the right, nobody on the Ravens picked up the lingering Jeffrey on the crossing pattern. And the rest is now history.
Fourth Quarter: A 14-yard scoring pass and run from McCown to Matt Forte at 10:14 of the quarter gave the Bears their first lead of the day at 20-17.
But the Ravens were able to engineer a nice final drive that began with just under five minutes in the game. This drive was sustained by two critical events: the first being a horse collar tackle penalty on what would have otherwise created a fourth-and-10 situation. The second play that temporarily kept the drive alive was a one-handed catch by Dallas Clark on a fourth and four that gained 14 yards to the Bears 30.
After a nice pace to Deonte Thompson for 11 yards and a run by Rice for another 11 yards, the Ravens were sitting pretty with a first and goal at the Bears five yard line with 1:21 remaining. Rice would carry them to the two, only to be stacked up for a loss of one. Probably messing up a score for the Ravens was a dribbling snap to Joe Flacco that he had to pick up like a shortstop with a ground ball – delaying the timing just enough to fail to hit an open Torrey Smith in the rear of the end zone. The subsequent field goal would send the contest into overtime.
Third Quarter: This belonged to the Chicago weather system that featured wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. Only a total of 26 plays were run from scrimmage, as compared to 49 in the second quarter and 40 in the fourth quarter. Nothing of substance happened, and its quick passing was the only fast thing that transpired during this interminable day!
Second Quarter: Trailing the Ravens 10-0 after the first quarter, a Gould field goal at 8:55 put the Bears on the board. Just 17 seconds later, the score was tied as a Flacco pass was intercepted by tight end David Bass for a touchdown.
As disheartening as this turn of events was, Flacco did come right back and cap off an 80-yard drive with a beautiful thread-the-needle touchdown pass of five yards to Torrey Smith.
But toward the end of the first half, Flacco forced a play and was picked off for a second time – on this occasion by Jon Bostic. And the Bears were able to add a field goal as time expired to cut the Ravens’ halftime lead to 17-13.
First Quarter: The game opened exceedingly well for the Ravens. Again, like last week, they were able to open to an early lead. In fact, the Ravens scored a touchdown on this opening drive for the first time this season, having scored on the opening drive only once before. The largest gain was a 47-yard Rice run – three times longer than his previous best of the year.
At 4:56 remaining, Justin Tucker connected for a 52-yard field goal that some commentators said could well have been good from 70 yards. The winds were howling and the game was suspended. The stadium bowl was cleared as horrific weather settled upon the area. There were deadly tornadoes in portions of Illinois. The entire delay would amount to one hour and 53 minutes.
Varied Thoughts and Reactions …
Run Game: It was great to see Ray Rice and the Ravens successfully run the ball, even on a lousy weather day. Yes, the Bears defense is not great. But even so, there was some quickness and explosion that have not been seen since … well … since the last trip of the earth around the sun! Rice finished with 131 yards on 25 carries.
Quarterback Play: Josh McCown is no slouch. He made a lot of plays and was more than just simply adequate in his backup role due to the absence of Jay Cutler. McCown was 19 of 31 for 216 yards and a touchdown (no interceptions) – all on a weather day that will not soon be forgotten. On the other hand, Flacco was 17 of 31 for 162 yards and a touchdown. But it is a fact that his two interceptions led to 10 points. He now has 13 picks this year – a new personal record.
The Weather Delay: It was a bit too much of a Yogi Berra-ish “déjà-vue all over again” in reference to the momentum-changing similarity to the Super Bowl. I suspect I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t buy the necessary momentum-shifting boo-hooing argument. Both teams had the same circumstances. Why it is not just as likely that this turn of events should double-down on the disaster of being pummeled early in the game?
Gotta Git-R-Done: Man, with first and goal from the five yard line with 1:21 remaining in the game, you’ve gotta feel good about your chances. But two ugly running plays later and a grounder on a snapped ball … and ugh, what a blown opportunity!
Harbaugh Remarks: I was in the car at the moment the first half ended and heard the quick remarks of the coach on the way to the locker room. He was not happy with the turnovers – “That was not good.” And not specifying it, he was clearly irritated particularly with the ill-advised pass that set up the field goal just before halftime.
Well … six of the eight road games are now past, and the Ravens have the next three games at home against the Jets, Steelers, and Vikings – all manageable and winnable games.