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No shortage of blame to go around for another Ravens home collapse

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

BALTIMORE — You could point the finger in any number of directions after the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to Buffalo that didn’t feel quite as surprising as it should have, which is part of the problem.  

While regarded as analytically sound by multiple sources, John Harbaugh’s decision to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line in a tie game with 4:15 to play was the opposite of what a head coach would do if he truly believed his defense would “get them stopped” like he said after the game. The Ravens defense knows it too, leaving one to wonder about that group’s psyche at this point well beyond Marcus Peters’ sideline outburst. I’m an analytics guy, but there’s something to be said about taking the Justin Tucker chip shot and challenging your defense to make a stop, something it had done in a sudden-change situation on Buffalo’s previous drive. It’s not as though a field goal was a slam dunk in such wet conditions either. 

Greg Roman’s fourth-down play call was second-guessed — a theme in goal-line situations dating back to last season — and Lamar Jackson made matters even worse by throwing an end-zone interception, giving the Bills the ball at the 20-yard line instead of leaving them at their own 2 with an incompletion. Part of the rationale behind going for the touchdown in such a spot is leaving the opponent backed up if you’re unsuccessful. You can’t have that from your star quarterback.

An offense that scored 20 points in the first half — thanks in part to two takeaways — punted or turned the ball over on each of its four drives after intermission. You can’t play one good half of offensive football and expect that to hold up with Josh Allen on the opposite sideline.  

Having done an admirable job keeping the high-octane Bills out of the end zone until the final seconds of the first half, the defense allowed scores on four of Buffalo’s final five drives. And while it was hardly as egregious as Tua Tagovailoa and Miami wrecking them in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, the Ravens didn’t get the defensive job done in the end.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered, but there was outside linebacker Odafe Oweh tackling Devin Singletary at the 3-yard line when it was clear the rest of the defense was trying to let the Bills running back score to give Jackson and the Ravens offense a final possession. After the game, Oweh said the instructions in the huddle were to let Buffalo score a touchdown or go for the strip, something Calais Campbell confirmed in the locker room. But there’s plenty of subjectivity in such a strategy, making it fair to question the coaching and preparation for such a moment.  

Yes, some fans are still screaming about a very questionable roughing the passer call on Brandon Stephens moments earlier that turned a second-and-15 from the Baltimore 41 into a first down in field-goal range just before the two-minute warning. But there was way too much wrong directly in Baltimore’s control to blame officiating. At the very least, I sure hope coaches and players aren’t thinking that way, or this team is in bigger trouble than we think. 

The purple optimist will try to brush this loss off, citing Buffalo’s greatness and maintaining how Baltimore could easily be 4-0 instead of 2-2 if just a couple plays had gone differently. But the Ravens have now blown leads of at least 17 points to lose two games — both at home — in the last three weeks. Over their first 26 seasons in Baltimore, that had happened in three losses combined.

Such home collapses are unacceptable and troubling for a team with lofty aspirations. 

You can puff out your chest about September victories over the New York Jets and the post-Tom Brady New England Patriots all you want, but the Ravens look like a team that doesn’t know how to win against a top-shelf competitor. And while we were understandably quick to chalk up everything about that six-game losing streak to close last season to their many injuries — none more significant than Jackson missing the last four contests, of course — some of the late-game shortcomings have carried over to 2022 with the Ravens having lost eight of their last 10 regular-season games. Even Jackson — off to an MVP-caliber start overall — made a brutal mistake in a critical moment. 

Neither side of the ball played a complete game against Miami or Buffalo, and it cost them dearly in both losses. And while it’s important to acknowledge the other team tries too, the coverage busts against the Dolphins and Oweh’s late-game tackle on Sunday are just two examples of what you wouldn’t expect to see from a well-coached team with the game on the line. 

No, the Ravens haven’t done the little things — or the big things — well against their toughest opponents, which leaves them still searching for their place within the AFC hierarchy nearly a quarter of the way through the season. They’d better figure it out quickly with division rival Cincinnati coming to town for Sunday Night Football next week. 

Blame whomever you want, but back-to-back home collapses aren’t the stuff of a serious contender. In fact, it’s the opposite of what “playing like a Raven” is supposed to mean — with their long history backing that up.

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