Putting your faith in NFL officials to make the right call is never wise. Consistently, they falter. They blow the whistle on soft, ticky-tack penalties. Or phantom penalties. They don’t call egregious penalties. They err when, as professionals, they shouldn’t.
Today, they failed when they didn’t call a facemask penalty on Colts defensive lineman Kwity Paye, who gripped wide receiver Zay Flowers grill.
They refused to call defensive pass interference on Colts linebacker E.J. Speed who pulled at Flowers’ arms early for a clear foul.
The officials are at fault. They failed to do their job accurately.
The Ravens fell victim to themselves.
Heading into this game, the Ravens were on the highest of highs. Head Coach John Harbaugh was visibly jubilated on the sideline after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals. The locker room was energetic. The players gave speeches throughout the week not to stumble after an emotional victory. They knew better. They treated this with the seriousness required.
Their defense answered the call on the first drive. They stopped the Colts after initially allowing a 24-yard run by Colts running back Zack Moss on the first play. Then, the offense went onto the field and marched for the touchdown. Jackson, like a military General, commanded his unit with sharp decision making and perfect execution.
They were doing the same on the second drive. Gus Edwards rushes for nine yards. Mark Andrews reception for 20 yards. Then, Jackson completed a ball to running back Kenyan Drake for 24 yards. But as Drake went down, so too did the Ravens performance, for he fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Colts. This lost possession spelled disaster for the Ravens. They crumbled in the pouring rain of the first half.
Third possession: Three plays, Jackson is sacked on third down, fumbles, but fortunately recovers the ball. Ravens punt it away.
Fourth possession: Lamar Jackson is strip sacked and the ball is recovered by the Colts.
Fifth possession: Third down snap is a miscommunication with center Sam Mustipher and Jackson. To make matters worse, it’s low, and the play is aborted. Ravens punt it away.
Sixth possession: Ends after one play at the conclusion of the first half.
It feels there’s always a game or two that ends in these frustrating losses for the Ravens. A game they should have. Though players and coaches say each team in the NFL is great, it’s not true. Check the scores from Sunday’s Week 3 games. You can find there is a difference between the upper echelon and basement dwellers. And though the Colts are not basement dwellers, the Ravens are a superior team. But they have these games where they stumble and can’t get up. They thrash and grit their teeth and are trying to will themselves out of the muck but can’t break free.
It happened last year against the New York Giants; in similar fashion, too, with fumbles being the death knell.
Part of the loss is the injury issue. The Ravens inactives list was no surprise on Sunday, as they already ruled out seven players. Those seven?
- LT Ronnie Stanley ($23.67 million)
- WR Odell Beckham Jr. ($3.93 million)
- C Tyler Linderbaum ($3 million)
- S Marcus Williams ($7.26 million)
- CB Marlon Humphrey ($12.46 million)
- OLB Odafe Oweh ($3.1 million)
- RB Justice Hill ($1.51 million)
Guys that also weren’t playing included running back J.K. Dobbins ($1.82 million) who suffered a torn Achilles and outside linebacker Tyus Bowser ($2 million), who is on injured reserve recovering from a knee injury.
In total, that’s $58.75 million in cap number not on the field for the Ravens. This is without including outside linebacker David Ojabo (ankle) and running back Gus Edwards (concussion), who were both injured in this game.
“If the Ravens are healthy, ___________.”
It’s the qualifier from pundits. It’s the qualifier from national outlets. From local outlets. From fans.
The Ravens have some of the best players in the NFL, but they can’t get them on the field simultaneously, or for long stretches of time. They get a guy or two back but another one goes down. They get three back but then one injury is taking longer to heal than originally expected, or hoped.
Injuries happen across the league. We’ve seen numerous stars suffer season-ending injuries through three weeks. The Ravens aren’t alone in dealing with injuries, but they are dealing with more and with more of their top guys.
The phrase “Next Man Up” is always the mantra. But how long can it be said without the drop off?
The officials blew this game for the Ravens. When all was on the line, they did not do their job.
But the Ravens should not have left it up to the fickle officials.