Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Seahawks 22 Ravens 17 (The DOOMED BY DAVID AND THE D Game)

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When a 6-2 NFL team goes on the road and loses to a 2-6 team, there is bound to be plenty of blame to spread around. Such was true in the case of the Ravens yesterday, as they fell to the woeful Seahawks 22-17 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. However, if you’re looking for a scapegoat at whom to direct the majority of your anger, look no further than second-year WR/kick returner David Reed.

Reed had a day he won’t soon forget – and not in a good way.

His afternoon actually started on a positive note, as he took an end-around play on the team’s opening drive 16 yards for a first down. This was just one play after fellow wideout Torrey Smith had taken an end-around the other way for an equal 16-yard gain. Unfortunately, that sequence would be pretty much the only bright spot – for Reed or for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron – all day.

After Seattle took a 7-0 lead on a 6-play, 60 yard drive, Reed took the ensuing kickoff in the end zone and decided to run it out. Then, just as he did last week in Pittsburgh, he coughed the ball up. This time, though, no friendly jerseys were there to bail him out, as the Seahawks recovered at the Ravens’ 19.

Six plays later, former Raven Steve Hauschka booted a 22-yard FG (his first of a career-high five on the day) to give Seattle a 10-0 lead.

A loud chorus of “HERE WE GO AGAIN!” could be heard echoing throughout Charm City.

In the second quarter, the Ravens began to mount their comeback. Cameron’s only other high note on the day – an option pass from Ray Rice on the 1-yard line – pulled the Ravens to within 10-7 with over nine minutes to play in the first half.

Still very much anybody’s ball game.

Alas, the vaunted Ravens’ defense – as they did for much of the day – wavered when they had a chance to seize momentum and potentially turn the game.

Seattle faced 3rd-and-9 from their own 25-yard line. A 3-and-out would have given the Ravens the ball back with favorable field position and the momentum swinging in their favor. That was not to be the case, though, as Hawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson found receiver Doug Baldin for a 50 (FIFTY!) yard gain that eventually set up another Hauschka field goal.

13-7. Again, still in this thing.

Enter David Reed.

Reed again eschewed a touchback, instead bringing the ball out of the end zone all the way to…the 20 yard line. Super. Whatever, let’s go.

Oh, wait, what’s that? Some yellow laundry on the field? An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Reed, who was so impressed by his own 20-yard freaking return that he felt compelled to TAUNT an opposing player by dropping the ball on him?

This stupid, juvenile, inexcusable mistake backed the Ravens up to their own 10-yard line, where they promptly went 3-and-out. The usually reliable Sam Koch shanked his punt to the tune of 28-yards, and it was now Seattle with the ball in Ravens’ territory and all the momentum.

Sensing a theme here? Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.

Field goal #3 from Hauschka made it 16-7 with just under 2 minutes to play in the half. Still, the Ravens had plenty of time to drive down and at least pick up a field goal to make it a one score game heading into the locker room.

David Reed still wasn’t done though.

Trying to make up for his prior mistakes and give his team a spark, Reed again brought the ball out of the end zone. And again put it on the turf. And again Seattle recovered it.

The Seahawks managed just a single yard on the ensuing drive, but it was more than enough as Hauschka kicked a 35-yarder to make it 19-7 bad guys.

The Ravens put together a decent drive with less than a minute to work with, only to see their own kicker, Billy Cundiff, miss his second 50+ yard FG attempt of the day as time wound down in the half.

Down 19-7, Cam Cameron completely abandoned the running game (though he had already half-abandoned it when the score was about 13-7).

From there on out, Cam did all he could to try to make Joe Flacco’s arm fall off. Flacco attempted a career high 52 passes (one of which was tipped and intercepted on the opening drive of the second half, resulting in a 22-7 Seattle lead) but finished with a dismal 4.9 yards per attempt.

Joe had an up-and-down day, missing several throws that could have resulted in big plays. His receivers also once again betrayed him though, as everyone from Torrey Smith to Anquan Boldin to Ray Rice was dropping catchable passes. I counted at least 5 drops on the day.

As many have stated, Flacco and the Ravens’ receivers – while performing admirably in comeback wins over Arizona and Pittsburgh – are not yet ready to be the bread-and-butter of this offense. Nor do they have to be. The Ravens possess one of the game’s most dangerous weapons in running back Ray Rice, yet yesterday was just another game where he was a forgotten man.

In the team’s three losses this year, Rice has a grand total of 26 carries for 98 yards. He had eight carries in Jacksonville. He had FIVE yesterday in Seattle.

Now granted, the flow of the game dictated a sense of urgency that didn’t leave quite as much room to try to establish the run (wouldn’t it be nice to see this team play with a lead for once?). However, Cameron abandoned Rice entirely too early. Even against a Seattle defense that entered the game tied with the Ravens for second fewest yards-per-carry allowed, #27 needed to be more involved.

And now to chastise the Ravens’ defense a bit.

First off, kudos for holding Seattle to field goals every time they were set up with a short field. The game could have been a lot further out of hand a lot earlier had the Seahawks been able to punch in a couple of those turnovers.

Still, when the D had the chance to make a play and potentially set up another game-winning drive from Flacco, they instead floundered.

After the Ravens had pulled to within 22-17 with just under six minutes to play, all they needed was the ball back for a shot to win. Instead, the Ravens defense allowed Seattle to hold the ball for the entire rest of the game clock, twice allowing conversions on 3rd-and-5, and despite Seattle shooting themselves in the foot with consecutive penalties to open the drive at 1st-and-20 from their own 10 yard line.

For the second consecutive week, Chuck Pagano’s unit looked more like a Greg Mattison-coached one, picking up just a single sack. They weren’t able to cause a single turnover against a quarterback who entered the game with nine interceptions. They allowed 327 yards to the 29th-ranked offense in the NFL. And they let Marshawn Lynch bully them into submission with the game on the line.

Sure, they were on the field for 35 minutes, but the final six of those were all their own doing.

With another loss to a sub-.500 team, the Ravens and their fans are left again scratching their heads. You’re not going to win many games with a -3 turnover margin, that’s for damn sure. But where was the team that just finished a sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers? Pittsburgh, by the way, beat the three teams our Ravens lost to by a combined score of 79-30.

As I said last night on twitter (@BMoreBirdsNest), maybe the Ravens should petition the league that all of their remaining opponents have to wear Steelers uniforms when they play us. Apparently that’s the only way this team can summon the level of emotion and focus necessary to win.

They sure aren’t making things easy on themselves, but all is not lost. No team in the AFC has fewer than three losses. If the Ravens could have beaten even one of these inferior teams, they’d still be holding onto the #1 seed after Week 10. Instead, they’ve set themselves up for yet another dogfight down the stretch. They still hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers. Taking care of business at home the next two weeks against Cincinnati and San Francisco (combined record 14-4 – hey, we’re good against good teams!) will go a long way toward helping the fan base regain our sanity.

These are kind of losses that can very easily come back to haunt the team in January though. There’s no getting around that.

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