Yesterday's 20-13 loss to the Colts played out about like most previous games against Indianapolis have. A stellar performance from the defense, a litany of confounding mistakes by the offense, and a sprinkling of fumble recovery luck for the guys in blue.
As much as no one wants to hear it, these things do happen sometimes, especially against difficult opponents on the road. It is little solace now in the aftermath after the Ravens practically dared the Colts to build an insurmountable lead but it is true.
In the NFL, you are going to lose games, especially away from home. The key is not going 16-0. Rather, it is immediately fixing whatever issue got you beat.
The real danger is allowing the same things to beat you more than once.
What are those things?
Probably not the Defense
That's grade A analysis right there but it still needs to be reiterated because many have doubted Pees and the defense's ability to prevent big plays. The defense showed up big-time, forcing clutch turnovers, red zone stops, and more importantly, denying big plays. Andrew Luck still made some plays but to say that he won this game would be farcical. The Colts defense, with some help from our own offense, won this game for Indy make no mistake about it.
A quarterback and offense of Indy's caliber is going to make a few plays anyway. The Colts have spent three years devoting intense resources to their offense in free agency and the draft. Still, they were up 6-3 at halftime after a plethora of opportunities given them by us on short fields. The fact Baltimore wasn't down 17-0 at halftime is, frankly, miraculous.
The Ravens did a great job of not letting the same mistakes that killed us late against Cincy and nearly killed us against Cleveland beat us yesterday.
Indy's post-game numbers are not as good as they might appear (30 attempts/117 yards rushing compared to our 15/90) but it must be remembered that they had a double-digit lead for most of the second half. The Colts ran because they were leading, not vice versa.
And C.J. Mosley....what can we say about him that hasn't already been said? He dominated, period. The Colts had no answer for him. He had the kind of game that gets guys voted for Defensive Player of the Year.
The Ravens defense is not going to play this great every week but they are capable of it. That counts for a lot.
James Hurst and the Offensive Line
Hurst had a brutal game by any stretch I think we can all agree. However, he had a tough assignment. Rookie Undrafted Free Agents are ... rookie UDFAs for a reason — they probably aren't ready for 16 straight games at a massively difficult position. His opponent yesterday was a first round pick from the country's ninth best defense in the 2012 college football season.
Werner hasn't been particularly good for Indy yet but he did his job yesterday in playing better than a rookie free agent, which is what you're supposed to do when you are drafted 24th overall. Flacco was under siege, sacked four times, and rarely had more than a second to let pass plays develop. Our offensive drives stalled because of it. The sack on fourth and goal was a game-changer. The sack immediately to start our final comeback drive nearly ended the game.
But it wasn't just Hurst or Werner either. The Colts brought significant blitz pressure by design to mitigate their gaping weakness at pass rusher with Mathis gone. They had to blitz because what else were they going to do? Failing to bring pressure would have spelled defeat for them. By the time we adjusted for the blitzes, we were down far enough to make a comeback unusually difficult.
Going forward, the Ravens need to scheme up something more for Hurst and ensure that teams can't just blitz us into oblivion until Monroe gets back. Make no mistake about it, teams are going to do just that after they watch film on this game.
Even then, our woes at offensive line may not have mattered as much without.....
Self-inflicted Mistakes; Not Capitalizing on Their Mistakes
I pointed out the historical trends with the Ravens and Colts at length last week.The Ravens routinely find ways to sabotage their own efforts against Indy and yesterday was no different.
Yet, I am not sure there's much to say about it. These things happen, too, and they don't seem to offer much predictive value. Steve Smith's fumble was costly but he is hardly a chronic fumbler. The only chronic issue we can point to so far in this regard is Jones' issues at receiver, which I covered in detail early last week. Of course, then he produces an important 30-yard play late in the game so...
Moreover, Colts were benefitting from some fumble recovery luck (as usual) and there is nothing we can do about that either. A Colts receiver fumbled within our 20-yard line and another Colt immediately scooped it up. Steve Smith does the same and Indy easily recovers it.
They paid it back to us late in the game when Matt Elam forced that amazing fumble but, nevertheless, Indy only lost two of their three fumbles and we lost both of ours. For lack of a better phrase: bad stuff happens. All we can control is not fumbling ourselves and doing our best to force them to do it.
Where the Ravens really killed themselves was not capitalizing on the turnovers they did get. They forced mistakes from Indy but did little with them. It is hard to beat a good team when you fail to take advantage of the breaks you do get. Baltimore even won the turnover battle.
Add it all together and you have a pretty standard recipe for a tough loss to a quality opponent on the road.
I still believe we are a better team, top to bottom, than the Colts. I would like our chances in a rematch at any stadium, I'll say that much.
We did just a bit less to win than they did and these things happen in a 16-game season. The Ravens have a superb coaching staff and will find a way to shore up those weaknesses and ensure we don't lose in the same way.
On to Tampa.