Arthur Jones: 'I thought we had that one'
CHICAGO – The clutch throw that Bears quarterback Josh McCown made to tight end Martellus Bennett in overtime Sunday was a superb pitch and catch. It’s the kind of play the Ravens’ offense made regularly during their Super Bowl run. It’s the kind of play they are not making enough this season, and maybe they just won’t.
We saw Joe Flacco make that kind of throw last season regularly to Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. But Boldin is gone. Pitta is injured. Flacco isn’t throwing as accurately. He isn’t avoiding key mistakes, as evidenced by his career-high 13 interceptions, including two more on Sunday.
Forget what the Ravens used to be offensively, and look at what they are another gut-wrenching loss, 23-20 to the Bears in overtime. The Ravens have scored 30 points just once this season. When they get something good going, they don’t sustain it. Sunday was another example. They scored 10 quick points before the rain delay, and 17 points in the first half. Then what? Almost zilch, that’s what, just three points over the final 36 minutes.
On their last drive of regulation, when they could have won the game with a touchdown, the Ravens settled for a field goal. After winning the coin toss before overtime, they fizzled on their first possession, punted, and never got the ball back.
The Ravens are 4-6, and while the defense was hardly flawless Sunday, the offense should have done more, particularly in the second half. McCown (19 of 31, 216 yards, one TD, no interceptions), played better than Flacco (17 of 31, 162 yards, one TD, two interceptions). The Bears’ receivers made more big plays than the Ravens’ receivers did. McCown had better pass protection than Flacco.
In key moments, the Ravens’ offense left the door open for the Bears to come back. On the Ravens’ last drive in regulation, Dallas Clark made a sensational catch to keep the drive alive, and the Ravens rolled to a first-and-goal at the five, trailing 20-17 with 36 seconds to play, and two timeouts.
If the Ravens score a touchdown, they win. But after Rice ran for three yards on first down, he was bottled up for a one-yard loss, making it third-and-goal from the three. On the next play, center Gino Gradkowski made a low snap to Flacco, who had to pick up the ball before he could look to the end zone. Torrey Smith was open for a moment, but the timing of the play was thrown off. By the time Flacco saw Smith, he was no longer open, and Flacco sailed a pass high for the incompletion.
Opportunity lost. In overtime, it was more of the same. On third-and-five, Flacco had Tandon Doss open for a first down. Flacco threw it. Doss dropped it. The Ravens punted, and never got the ball back.
Flacco had his own blunders earlier, including a pick-six for a Bears touchdown that tied the game at 10. Flacco made no excuses, saying he never saw defensive end David Bass before he made his leaping grab.
“I saw Vonta open in the flat, and the next thing you know I saw a guy running with the football,” Flacco said. “You’re trying to get a read down field.”
Late in the second quarter, Flacco forced a ball into coverage to Clark that was intercepted, setting up a Bears field goal just before halftime.
That’s 10 points that Flacco’s interceptions cost the Ravens. Conditions were challenging Sunday, but Flacco has not been able to lift the Ravens consistently in crucial spots. You can blame his supporting cast, but he must also share the blame. Ray Rice had his best game of the season, but Flacco did not, not even close.
That leaves the Ravens at 4-6, with a upcoming three-game home stand against the Ravens, Jets, and Vikings. A three-game sweep would put the Ravens at 7-6, but they haven’t won three straight all year. Last season, the Ravens made big plays on offense. This season they make big mistakes, and it is costing them dearly.