Say what you want about the poor performance of the Baltimore Ravens in their 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. However, as bad as they played, they were within one score of taking the lead and winning the game with just over five minutes left in the contest. One more chance at another game-winning drive, which would have been the third last-second comeback in a row and the Ravens could escape Seattle with a comeback victory.
Unfortunately, the Seahawks had zero interest in participating in this fantasy dream, refusing to give the Ravens offense a shot, using up the rest of the clock, taking a knee on the game's final play to end any chance of another magical ending. Baltimore had Seattle right where they wanted them, starting deep in their own territory at the ten-yard line, facing a first-and-20, with 5:46 left on the game clock.
The offense may have waited too long to finally wake up, but it was the Ravens defense that couldn't get the ball back into QB Joe Flacco's hands for one more chance to work his magic like he had the past two weeks.
Twelve plays later, after taking a knee for the second time at the Ravens 18-yard line, Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson tossed the ball to the referee and began to celebrate with his teammates. Converting two big third downs along the way, with the biggest being a 24-yard completion to WR Golden Tate on a third-and-five with 4:44 left on the clock. A stop on that play would have forced Seattle to punt and give Baltimore over four minutes to see if they could drive the field for what would have been their seventh win of the 2011 season and the outright lead in the AFC North.
Seven times on that final clock-eating drive Jackson stuffed the ball into RB Marshawn Lynch's gut for 32 of his 109 yards. Knowing full well he was getting the ball, the Ravens vaunted defense just could not stop Lynch from extending the drive, twice getting first downs rushing and once on a short pass. With the game on the line, a two-win team was able to just shove the ball down the six-win Ravens collective throats.
No matter how upset the fans were with the lack of rushing attempts for RB Ray Rice, the missed throws by Flacco, the dropped balls by his receivers, it was the defense that still had the opportunity to shut down Seattle deep in their own territory and force a punt from the Seahawks own end zone. Not only that, they still could have stopped Seattle at any point on that final drive to get the ball back at some point, even though that probably would have pushed the Ravens back further into their own territory.
However, as good as the Seahawks defense played on Sunday, the Ravens had already proven that they could drive the entire length of the field as they did on the previous week's 92-yard game-winning drive to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sunday, the Ravens just never got the chance to try it again one more time. The Ravens defense just couldn't get the job done when they need it the most.
Football is the ultimate team game. Sadly for the Ravens, Sunday was also the ultimate team loss.