Ravens defense crumbles in the crunch
6-play, 66-yard TD drive by Raiders late in the fourth quarter erases 6-point lead
Every defense in the NFL wants an opportunity to make a stand and cement a victory.
But with a six-point advantage late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens defense wilted. Oakland needed just six plays to march 66 yards in 1:24, a series capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
In a classic matchup of strength versus strength — the No. 2 defense in the league against the No. 2 offense — the Ravens folded late and lost, 28-27.
“On defense, you want to be in a position to close it out,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “But we didn’t.”
Oakland’s winning drive got off to a favorable start thanks to a taunting penalty on wide receiver Mike Wallace for spiking the ball in the direction of a Raiders player after converting a 2-point attempt that gave the Ravens a 27-21 advantage with 3:36 left in the game.
Oakland gained first downs on its first two plays, with Carr finding Crabtree for catches of 15 and 11 yards. After an incompletion, Carr connected with tight end Clive Walford for a 17-yard completion to the Ravens 23-yard line.
On the ensuing play, safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb broke up a potential touchdown pass from Carr to Walford. Webb and Walford were injured on the play and went to the sideline.
Kendrick Lewis filled in for Webb, and Carr and Crabtree took advantage. Crabtree ran several yards upfield and feinted to his right. When cornerback Shareece Wright took the bait, Crabtree beat Lewis to the end zone, caught the ball, planted his right foot inbounds and dragged his left toe to complete the score.
Carr said he noticed that the Ravens had four defenders lined up deep to prevent a long completion for a touchdown.
“That drive meant so much to us,” he said. “Baltimore has had one of the best defenses in the NFL for, it seems, forever.”
Said Crabtree: “The corners were playing me outside. I made up my mind I was going to execute, and I wasn’t going to stop running.”
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said the secondary failed to stick to the defensive strategy on that series.
“We’ve got to stay deep,” he said. “On the Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree beats the Ravens’ Kendrick Lewis for a 23-yard game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. “That drive meant so much to us,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. “Baltimore has had one of the best defenses in the NFL for, it seems, forever.” touchdown, we were in the right coverage. We’ve got to stay deep on that. That was on us as a defense.”
Carr and Crabtree have been especially opportunistic against the Ravens. In the past two meetings, they have connected for 16 catches for 199 yards and four scores.
The Raiders took advantage of the Ravens’ personnel. Wright has surrendered four touchdowns in his past two starts, and Lewis was in the game because of an injury to Webb.
But Webb dismissed the notion that his absence and Lewis’ insertion opened the door for the touchdown.
“It’s not going to impact anything,” said Webb, who passed the concussion protocol after the game. “We’ve got Kendrick Lewis coming in, and he’s not any drop-off with him and Weddle. I didn’t get to see the last play. I just heard about the last play. So I really don’t know exactly what happened because I didn’t get to see it. But it’s no drop-off.”
Another factor was Oakland’s decision to go no-huddle four times on those six plays, including before the game-winning score. Its offense had played quickly in the second quarter, too. Ravens outside linebacker Albert McClellan acknowledged that the no-huddle offense prevented the defense from getting the right grouping on the field.
“That kind of caught us off guard a little bit, as far as us putting the right personnel out there in the situations we wanted,” he said. “It kind of caught us off guard a little bit, but we’ve still got to overcome it.”
The defense now must wait a week before it can try to redeem itself against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium. Inside linebacker Zachary Orr said the players will take a critical look at themselves.
“Guys are always going to be upset, and that’s a good thing, because guys don’t like to lose,” Orr said. “That’s what you want to see [in] everybody — guys that hate to lose, and we’ve got a bunch of guys on the team that hate to lose. So there’s probably going to be some guys that are really upset in the meeting room once we watch the film and break it down.” Oakland and allowed defensive end Khalil Mack to hit quarterback Joe Flacco twice.
“It wasn’t very good, especially the first half,” he said. “I didn’t play well enough to help the team win. Obviously, it’s good competition, but this is the NFL. I’m going to go back and look at film and see what I need to fix and work like crazy in practice to fix it.”
Whether Hurst will line up at left tackle against the Washington Redskins on Sunday will depend on Stanley’s status. The sixth overall pick has been bothered by a foot injury over the past two weeks, but he played in the team’s win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25 before sitting out against the Raiders.
Stanley declined to say how close he was to playing against Oakland. Asked whether the injury could be a long-term concern, he replied: “I don’t think so. Coach Harbaugh knows more about it than I do.” Dumervil quiet in 2016 debut: Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil’s debut in 2016 did not unfold as he would have liked.
Dumervil, who had sat out the first three games because of a foot problem related to offseason surgery, was active for the first time and made his first appearance on the third play of the game. But aside from a pressure or two, he was not much of a factor. He had no sacks or tackles.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” said Dumervil, who was on the field on passing downs; Albert McClellan made his fourth consecutive start at the strong-side linebacker spot. “I felt rusty, but I’m going to keep working, and we’ll get it going.” End zone: The Raiders improved to 2-2 in games in the Eastern time zone in two seasons under coach Jack Del Rio, and the former Ravens linebackers coach made it known that he is tired of hearing about the East Coast troubles of West Coast teams. “First of all, at some point, we [should] really stop talking about the time zone,” Del Rio said. “Good football teams find a way to win wherever they are. There are some things you have to do as a team, and we’ve embraced that.” … Safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb were checked for concussions in the fourth quarter but were cleared. Tight end Maxx Williams left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. … In addition to Dumervil, running back Buck Allen, cornerback Jerraud Powers and guard John Urschel (shoulder) were active for the first time this season. … The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks Sheldon Price (thigh) and Will Davis, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee), defensive tackle Wille Henry and rookie outside linebacker Matthew Judon. … Cornerback Jimmy Smith, kicker Justin Tucker, wide receiver Mike Wallace and Weddle represented the Ravens for the coin toss.