In a classic Ravens vs. Steelers slugfest, the Ravens came up just short in the final moments and lost by a single point, 20-19. Baltimore led for the majority of the game but were outscored by eight points in the fourth quarter. Their late-game heroics were not enough to result in a victory this time around, and they now drop to 8-4 on the season.
Let’s get into a few takeaways from the crushing defeat below.
Fortune favors the bold . . . until it doesn’t
After doing little-to-nothing offensively for most of four quarters, of course the Ravens waited until the final two minutes — when they trailed for the first time — to piece together just their second touchdown drive of the evening.
In eight plays, Jackson completed five passes and connected with Sammy Watkins for a six-yard score as the clock hit 0:12. Then, instead of trotting out Justin Tucker to attempt a game-tying extra point, John Harbaugh opted to keep the offense on the field and try for a two-point conversion to go up 21-20.
A gutsy decision? Certainly. A worthwhile one? If you convert, yes. Unfortunately, the Ravens did not.
Jackson lofted a short pass to Mark Andrews, who was open on a crossing route, but the throw was a bit too far and Andrews couldn’t haul it in with one hand. The play design was good but the execution was not — and thus that was all she wrote. The decision to go for two instead of kicking the extra point will inevitably dominate the conversation coming out of this game. The reality is hindsight is 20-20 —
If the Ravens converted the two-point attempt, they win the game. If they instead made the extra point and went to overtime, there’s no telling what may have happened. Up until that final drive, the momentum had been entirely in Pittsburgh’s favor, so maybe taking a chance to avoid an extra frame of play was the right call . . . you decide.
Defensive slide at the worst time
For the first three quarters of this game, the Ravens’ defense was piecing together another stalwart performance. The Steelers had mustered just one scoring drive, which ended in a field goal, and punted the ball five times. Baltimore’s defense was largely controlling the line of scrimmage and regularly getting off the field thanks to sticky pass coverage.
Then, after the Ravens punted the ball back to Pittsburgh just before the fourth quarter began, a flip switched. The Steelers began to run more no-huddle and go up-tempo offensively, which saw them find much more success.
They quickly scored their first touchdown in a four-play, 78-yard drive where the Ravens ceded back-to-back completions of 29 and 40 yards. Then the Steelers took 4:33 off the clock on their next drive and scored a field goal. When the Ravens quickly went three-and-out and punted the ball back to a suddenly momentous Steelers’ offense, you got the feeling they were going to score again — and they did.
The Ravens allowed the Steelers to drive 69 yards in 11 plays to take their first lead after Diontae Johnson snagged a five-yard score. Pittsburgh’s successful two-point attempt put them up by a touchdown.
It was a sudden turn of events for a Ravens’ defense that had been playing at a near-dominant level. For perspective, they gave up more points in the fourth quarter, 17, than they had in each of the past three games.
Where art thou, Lamar?
Lamar Jackson certainly did not play as poorly in this game as he did in last week’s four-interception outing against the Browns. However, his final-drive heroics were not enough to make up for another otherwise subpar performance.
Jackson looked comfortable on the opening drive, scrambling for a first-down gain of 12 yards and delivering a series of check downs that resulted in chunk yardage. Then, a terrible decision to loft a pass to Andrews in the red zone resulted in an interception. It wasted an 11-play possession that took over six minutes off the clock.
Between this point and the final drive of the fourth quarter, Jackson missed some reads, held the ball too long and took sacks on numerous occasions, and made a few errant throws. It would be one thing if this was a one-off occasion, but unfortunately this was much of the same from what we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Jackson has been in a bit of a funk for a few consecutive games now. He’s not making decisive decisions and downfield throws like we saw earlier in the season. More importantly, he’s turning the ball over at a concerningly high rate. He’s thrown an interception in four straight games and has tossed 12 interceptions since Week 6.
Of course not all of the Ravens’ offensive struggles are his fault. However, the the Ravens go as Jackson goes. They need him to play better and it’s well within his abilities to do so.