Its funny how things work out. Especially for the Baltimore Ravens.
For 54 minutes of Sundays game with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens offense produced. They were balanced. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball only 30 times and the Ravens ran the ball 24 times. Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon rushed for a total of 113 yards, with West gaining 77 of those yards and Dixon scoring his first rushing touchdown, a 16 yard hustle to the outside. Kenneth’s touchdown made it a 27-17 game. The Ravens were putting up points, and not one-dimensional desperation. Two Flacco touchdown passes to Kamar Aiken and Steve Smith Sr., and two Justin Tucker field goals. There were times during the game the defense would give up long drive and allow the Eagles to score points, but the Ravens offense went back out on the field and responded with points of their own. For 54 minutes the offense gave the defense breathing room, who were getting physically mauled in their own building.
Then, as it always is with this team, things got nuts.
Late in the 4th quarter with the Ravens up 27-17, the defense stopped the Eagles on 4th down for a second time in the game. With 6:58 remaining on 3rd & 8 from the Baltimore 38 yard line, Flacco completed a pass to wide receiver Mike Wallace and Wallace took it 54 yards to the Eagles 11 yard line. With 6:21 left and the Ravens at the Eagles 11, the game is over. The Wallace reception should've been the last pass Flacco threw until next Sunday. All the Ravens had to do was run the ball, they were successful at it all game long so you figure they just run it there and either one or two things happen:
1. Kenneth Dixon or Terrance West scores and make it a 34-17 game with the outcome in no doubt.
2. Dixon and West carry the ball multiple times and at least run some clock. Setting up a Justin Tucker field goal to make it a 30-17 game and, again, the outcome is in no doubt.
But no, John Harbaugh and Marty Mornhinweg decide to throw the ball. The result is what you saw. In the end, despite the defense getting mauled throughout the game, they bailed out the coaches for their blunder with a key 2-pt conversion stop and the Ravens won a 27-26 game where the Eagles had no business being in. It wasn't just a stupid play call, it was unnecessary. That's the biggest thing about the play call above all else. When you look at the results of the weekends NFL games when it comes to the AFC playoff picture, the defense probably saved Harbaugh from the vaunted pink slip.
Say the Ravens do complete the collapse, lose the game, and fall to 7-7; where would the Ravens be positioned in the playoff hunt? In the wild card race, the Miami Dolphins ran over the New York Jets on Saturday night. You know the Jets right? The same team that beat the Ravens? Yeah, me too. Anyway, the Dolphins win put them at 9-5 on the season, with a Ravens loss to the Eagles the Dolphins would've opened up a 2-game lead on Baltimore with two games left. Which means that if Baltimore were to make the playoffs, they would have to win out and hope that the Dolphins lose out. There’s more. Ravens would still need the Denver Broncos to lose one or both of their remaining games to move past them. Case in point, the wild card becomes slim. The AFC North becomes slim to none.
To win the division, the Ravens would have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and beat the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. They then have to hope and pray for a miracle. They have to hope for something that hasn't happened all year long. They would have to hope that the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 can march into Pittsburgh, at possibly 0-15 if they lose to the San Diego Chargers, and beat the Steelers at Heinz Field. They haven't done that since 2007.
The season was on the line on Sunday and the decision to throw almost ended the Ravens season. Securing a third season under Harbaugh where the Ravens would miss the playoffs in the last four years. If that was the way the team was going to miss the playoffs, on a completely unnecessary play call, how do you think Steve Bisciotti would've taken it? The problem is, the defense never needed to perform. The storylines about this game should've been how the offense was balanced and productive, not about what happened in the last 5 minutes of this game because of their decision to pass.