Mistakes halt early momentum, sink Ravens in overtime loss to Indianapolis

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BALTIMORE — Down even more starters than last week in Cincinnati, the Ravens were again making it look easy in a rainy first quarter on Sunday. 

After forcing two Indianapolis punts and marching 80 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive, Baltimore appeared to be on the way to an early two-score lead. Lamar Jackson threw completions for 20 yards to Mark Andrews and 24 yards to Kenyan Drake, whose catch and run put the Ravens just outside the red zone. 

But JuJu Brents punched out the ball as Drake went to the ground and the Colts cornerback recovered to bring Baltimore’s momentum to a screeching halt. Despite ample chances the rest of the afternoon to win a third straight game to open the 2023 season, the Ravens never could finish the job. 

Too many breakdowns came at crucial times, and when Indianapolis kicker Matt Gay booted a 53-yard field goal — his fourth of the game from beyond 50 yards — to give the Colts a 22-19 upset win in overtime, the Ravens could only ponder how this one slipped through their grasp. 

“We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away, especially when our defense did a great job at stopping those guys,” said Jackson, who rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns. “We had great field position; we didn’t move the ball at all. That ticked me off. It ticked off all of us. We like to finish the job.” 

After gaining 133 yards over its first 15 plays, the offense was mostly ineffective after Drake’s turnover, fumbling the ball three more times over the next seven plays, averaging just 4.05 yards per play the rest of the game, and failing to score again until Jackson’s second touchdown run late in the third quarter. Again playing without left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum, the offensive line that performed so admirably against the Bengals struggled to hold up against the Indianapolis front. The passing game that was so dynamic and efficient against the Bengals rarely pushed the ball downfield on Sunday. 

Still, the offense had two opportunities to bleed the clock and protect a narrow lead with under five minutes to go in regulation. Taking over with 4:48 to go and leading 17-16, the Ravens gained only one first down before punting the ball back to Indianapolis, shaving 2:34 off the clock as the Colts used two timeouts. 


The worse offense came after Jordan Stout’s punt pinned Indianapolis at its own 2-yard line and backup quarterback Gardner Minshew stepped out of the end zone on third-and-11 for a safety and a 19-16 advantage for Baltimore. After replay review determined there was 2:03 remaining — preserving the two-minute warning — when Minshew stepped out, no one alerted Zay Flowers, who called a fair catch on the free kick to essentially gift the Colts a timeout. 

“We were going to fair catch that ball because it was 1:58 [on the clock], and that was before the two-minute warning,” head coach John Harbaugh explained after the game. “After the kick return team was on the field, they pumped it up over two minutes, and we were unable to get it communicated to him. We were trying, but we couldn’t get it communicated to him. They were winding it, so that was unfortunate.”

That can’t happen, especially with the Ravens having three timeouts remaining. Someone — anyone — has to recognize that in time to avoid such a mistake. 

Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered if the offense hadn’t gone three-and-out and committed a block in the back penalty on third down — though an Indianapolis face mask was missed that would have resulted in offsetting penalties and a replay of the down — to stop the clock. The Ravens drained only 22 seconds away as offensive coordinator Todd Monken dialed up two Melvin Gordon runs for one yard and a Flowers run for two yards.  


Stout then managed only a 34-yard punt to the Indianapolis 38, and the Ravens defense — that had to be thinking moments earlier that the safety had all but sealed a victory — took its own turn not being able to finish as the Colts drove 28 yards for the game-tying 53-yard field goal with 57 seconds to play. 

The Ravens found a way to give Justin Tucker a chance to try a 61-yarder to win it, but when that kick fell short, the offense failed to gain a single first down in overtime, wasting great field position on two drives. After Baltimore’s four-and-out — that ended with a potential pass inference that went uncalled — with 3:21 remaining, a few runs by Zack Moss to put him at an impressive 122 yards for the day positioned the Colts for the game-winning kick. 


The offense was the main culprit, but mistakes occurred in every phase at critical times for Baltimore, who will now play its next three games on the road. Dealing with so many injuries — a list that only grew on Sunday — the Ravens didn’t have the margin for error to survive self-inflicted wounds. They didn’t take care of the football in the first half, and no one made the big play in crunch time — including Jackson. 

The defeat was a reminder that the NFL is a week-to-week league that’s difficult to figure out, especially early in the season. That impressive mettle on display on the road against a divisional rivali last week was nowhere to be found Sunday as the Drake fumble halted the early momentum and the safety that looked like the game-clinching play only preceded multiple mistakes leading to defeat.

“We shouldn’t have even been in that position to lose on a game-winning field goal,” said safety Kyle Hamilton, whose outstanding defensive performance wasn’t enough. “There’s a bunch of stuff you go back, watch the film, [and] improve on. It’s Week 3 now, and hopefully [come] Week 13, we won’t even be remembering this. 

“We have to work our way there at the same time.” 

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