Ravens Drop To 4-5 At Bye With Loss To Titans

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Late rally doesn’t matter in 23-20 loss to Titans.

For some teams, it just doesn’t matter.

For this year’s Ravens, it doesn’t matter whether they play in their traditionally worst month (October) or in the following month (November), where they’re the league-best, 28-11, since 2008.

It doesn’t matter whether or not the defense comes to play–as it did for long stretches Sunday at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.

The Ravens’ offensive futility and inconsistency render everything else moot.

When the team continues to make untimely mistakes — including those by a usually-stellar special-teams unit — games like Sunday’s 23-20 loss to Tennessee in front of 67,322 fans is going to be the result.

The Ravens fell to 9-13 in pre-bye games. Baltimore will take next week off before traveling to storied Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers (Nov. 19, 1 p.m.; WJZ-TV; WIYY-FM). It will be a game that will have the Ravens take on a backup quarterback for the sixth time this year. In Green Bay, it will be Brett Hundley.

But this week Baltimore (4-5) went up against 24-year-old Titans starter, Marcus Mariota (19-for-28, 218 yards, two touchdowns, interception, three sacks, 100 rating). Mariota came off his own bye week and a hamstring injury to guide his team to a win.

The victory gave the Titans a 10-9 lifetime head-to-head regular-season edge against the Ravens.

Meanwhile, the Ravens held the Titans (5-3) to a mere 16 third-quarter yards — as they tried to get back into the game after an early 16-6 deficit. But the Ravens problem was offense. The team didn’t have a scrimmage play over 20 yards — one 30-yard play came on a fake punt — and had to use return specialist Bobby Rainey at RB and runbacks because Michael Campanaro was hurt (shoulder) for a second straight game.

On defense, the Ravens forced three straight three-and-out series (Baltimore has forced the second-most in the league, trailing only the Chargers) and six straight third-down conversions as they tried to cut into the deficit. Overall, the Ravens accumulated far more first downs than Tennessee (24-14) and held the Titans to 3-for-11 on third-down conversion plays.

Joe Flacco (34-for-52, 261 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, two sacks, 74.3 rating) threw touchdown passes, including three yards to Buck Allen and one yard to Mike Wallace–the latter of which came with just 46 seconds left–to make the final margin closer. Flacco was recovering from a concussion and contending with the team’s mini-bye.

But the Ravens misfired on their 24th straight onside kick (they haven’t recovered one since 2001), and this inconsistent team again failed to post consecutive wins since Weeks One and Two.

The AFC South-leading Titans won their eighth home game in their last ten tries, the best in the conference over that span.

In between the two Baltimore touchdowns, the Titans came to life with a 75-yard, five-minute drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown catch by Eric Decker (21 yards, three catches, touchdown). That was his first score as a Titan, but his 34th career red-zone score.

The Titans used their varied running game to get on the board first, even deploying cornerback Adoree Jackson on one play that gained 20 yards. But a Matthew Judon sack forced the hosts to settle for Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal to open the scoring barely four minutes into the game. It was Succop’s 56th consecutive field goal from 50 yards or closer.

The Ravens used their own special-teams unit to answer with a bit of trickery. Punter Sam Koch found Chris Moore with a fake-punt pass to get into the Titans’ red zone. That play set up Justin Tucker’s 30-yard field goal, which tied the score at 3-all. Koch, by the way, is 3-for-3 passing in his career.

Flacco, who was armed with a healthy wideout corps for the first time in weeks, tried to work underproductive Breshad Perriman into the offense. And he found Perriman for eight yards and a late-first-quarter first down. But on a subsequent deep throw to Perriman, the ball was tipped and then picked off by safety Kevin Byard (his fourth interception in the last two games and fifth of the year). The play set up the Titans at the Baltimore 46.

Flacco had not committed a turnover in three of the Ravens’ last four games, but this one proved costly. The Titans would pick on veteran corner Brandon Carr and cash in three plays later with a TD pass of 16 yards from Mariota to Rishard Matthews (70 yards, four catches, touchdown).

The period was a bit of an anomaly for the Titans because the team had been outscored, 37-19, in the first quarter this year. And Tennessee hadn’t scored a first-quarter touchdown in seven games. But the turnover and touchdown gave them an early advantage.

Flacco drove the Ravens into Titans territory as the second quarter began–behind two tough, in-traffic catches by Jeremy Maclin (98 yards, eight catches). But the gusty, 25-mph winds precluded another field-goal try and Buck Allen was then seemingly stopped on fourth-and-2. The Ravens challenged the spot and were awarded a first down as a result.

Courtesy: The Tennesseean

The problem was that two more incompletions in Perriman’s direction forced Tucker back on the field for a 49-yard field goal. It cut the Titans’ lead to 10-6.

But the kicking game then misfired. Koch shanked a 17-yard punt to give the Titans the ball on the Ravens’ 26. It came after an illegal formation call on Tyus Bowser forced a re-kick.

The Ravens’ undisciplined ways reared their head again when they had apparently stopped the Titans’ 31st-ranked red zone offense. But Za’Darius Smith was flagged for a questionable late hit on Mariota. Derrick Henry (26 yards, eight carries, touchdown) capitalized with a one-yard touchdown run, extending the Titans’ advantage to ten points when Succop’s point-after went wide.

But despite that minor Titans’ mistake, the Ravens had been held without a first-half touchdown for the fifth time in nine games. That put Baltimore in a hole it has trouble getting out of: the Titans came into the game 0-4 when trailing at the half.

Flacco’s second pass of the second half–a deep ball for tight end Ben Watson–was intercepted by the omnipresent Byard. Byard got good downfield position on Watson to make the play–his NFL-high sixth pickoff.

Such plays led one to conclude that even if the Ravens had rallied, it really wouldn’t have mattered.

For this team, this year, it rarely does.


About Joe Platania

Veteran beat writer, Joe Platania, is entering his 39th year in Baltimore media. He covers sports with insight, humor, and prescient eye. A former longtime member in good standing of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers of America, Platania manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex (1994 and ’95) and the Ravens beat since the team’s inception — one of only three local writers to do so — for PressBox, The Avenue, and other local publications and radio stations. A sought-after contributor and host on talk radio and TV, he often appears on “Inside PressBox” (10:30 a.m. Sundays) and he can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturdays on the “Purple Pride Report,” WQLL-AM (1370). He has also appeared on WMAR-TV’s “Good Morning Maryland” (2009), Comcast SportsNet’s “Washington Post Live” (2004-06), and WJZ-TV’s “Football Talk” postgame show — with legend Marty Bass (2002-04). Platania is the only sports journalist in Maryland history to have been a finalist for both the annual Sportscaster of the Year award (1998, which he won) and Sportswriter of the Year (2010). He is also a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner. Platania is a graduate of St. Joseph’s (Cockeysville), Calvert Hall College High School, and Towson University, where he earned a degree in Mass Communications. He lives in Cockeysville, MD.

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