Struggles continue for Ravens offense in overtime loss to Browns
Baltimore has now gone eight quarters without a touchdown
CLEVELAND — The third-down pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone sailed just out of the outstretched reach of the leaping wide receiver, who had the ball glance off his fingertips and fall harmlessly to the turf.
Despite the difficulty of the catch, the near touchdown was a play that Crabtree, now in his 10th NFL season, has made over and over again in his ascension to becoming one of the game’s top red zone threats.
On Sunday, it would have delivered the Baltimore Ravens the lead with less than a minute remaining in the contest. Instead, the team settled for a game-tying, 32-yard field goal in an eventual 12-9 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“You’ve got to finish it. I’ve been there and done that. This goaround, I came up short,” Crabtree said. “We’ve seem to make a couple big plays, it came down to the end and I should have made that catch. The game would have been over.”
The missed opportunity was just the latest example of mediocrity for a Ravens offense that has failed to find the end zone since the opening minutes of last week’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. While not on the same level as the 2000 Super Bowl Ravens, who famously failed to score a touchdown over five straight games, the eight consecutive quarters without reaching the end zone is rapidly dulling the shine from the season’s first four games when the team set an NFL record by scoring a dozen touchdowns on their first 12 red zone trips to open the season.
Since running back Alex Collins carried for a 3-yard touchdown to give Baltimore a 14-0 lead over Pittsburgh with 8:03 remaining in last Sunday’s 26-14 victory, the Ravens (3-2) have failed to reach the end zone on 22 consecutive offensive drives.
“We’ll look at the film and we’ll find out exactly why. We obviously did what we had to do last game. This game, we came up against a team that’s playing well, feeling good, and we just weren’t able to get the ball in the end zone,” said Flacco, who finished 29 of 56 passing for 298 yards. “There are a lot of things that go into that. We’ll have to go in and really grind to see exactly what it was.”
On Sunday, Baltimore failed to score touchdowns on three possessions that moved inside the 20-yard line. The ineffectiveness was made more glaring by the fact that Cleveland was held to just one touchdown and two field goals, including the game-winner with two seconds remaining in overtime.
An incomplete pass across the middle to Michael Crabtree on third-and-3 from the Cleveland 7 led to a 25-yard field by Justin Tucker that cut the score to 9-6 late in the third quarter. Prior to halftime, Flacco had a 2-yard pass intended for tight end Nick Boyle intercepted at the goal line by rookie first-round pick Denzel Ward.
“We just have to play Ravens football. I don’t think it’s frustrating,” said Ravens running back Buck Allen, who’s tied with John Brown for the team lead with three touchdowns. “We have too many weapons on our team not to score, so we’ve just got to call the right things and put our guys in the position to make plays.”
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) reacts after throwing an interception during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.