Are Ravens really a playoff team?

Flacco banged up inside and out after loss to Colts

November 23, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd

Joe Flacco looked like he had just been in a street fight.

This was minutes after the Ravens' 17-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, with M&T Bank Stadium emptying the way a funeral service empties.

Flacco had a nasty cut on one forearm and a dark knot forming on his forehead.

But as he addressed the media, you sensed that most of the pain the Ravens quarterback felt was internal.

"It's a game that we thought we could have won," he said softly. "When you come down to the end like that and you come up short, and it was because I made a dumb play and threw an interception in a tight situation. ..."

The Ravens made a few dumb plays in this one - mostly in the fourth quarter. And the result was another disheartening loss to the undefeated Colts, their sixth in a row to Peyton Manning, who wasn't his All-World self in this one but was good enough.

Worse, this might have been the loss that left Ravens fans doing Jim Mora impersonations ("Playoffs?! PLAYOFFS?! You kidding me?! PLAYOFFS?!") for the rest of the season.

Flacco had a tough day all-around.

Sure, he completed 23 of 35 passes for 256 yards. But the Ravens couldn't score a single touchdown as the offense sputtered again and again at key moments.

Early in the fourth quarter, it didn't just sputter. It flat-out died.

Let's go over that whole horrifying sequence again.

It's Ravens ball, first-and-goal on the Colts' 1-yard line.

Flacco tries a quarterback sneak up the middle. Except ... there's nothing sneaky about it. The Colts look as if they've been waiting for that play all week. Flacco is stacked up for no gain.

"I snuck down," he said of the play. "I kind of got shoved down. When my arm hit the ground, I looked to see where I was and I was on the half-yard line."

On second down, Willis McGahee crashes off left guard. No gain.

On third down, McGahee takes the handoff and runs up the middle, where he's met by what looks like the entire Colts defense for a 1-yard loss.

And just like that, the stadium goes quiet and the Ravens settle for a 20-yard field goal by newcomer Billy Cundiff and a shaky 15-14 lead - with over 10 minutes left for Manning to work his magic.

"When you're on the 1-yard line and you don't get in, it's just execution," said Matt Birk, the Ravens' cerebral center, shaking his head in disgust. "You've got to be more physical and you've got to surge up front.

"It's frustrating. To come away with just three points in that situation is just not acceptable."

Left unspoken by Flacco and Birk was this: If you can't score on three tries from a yard out, are you really a playoff team?

Predictably, Manning drove the Colts 60 yards in nine plays on their next possession for a 25-yard field goal by Matt Stover - you knew he would stick a dagger in the Ravens somehow - and a 17-15 lead.

Still, with Flacco passing crisply and exploiting the Colts' underneath coverage, the Ravens drove to the Indianapolis 14-yard line on eight plays on their next possession.

Which is when they gagged on another scoring chance, as Flacco's pass over the middle for Ray Rice was picked off by Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett.

"It was a bad job going to Ray in that situation, but I didn't see the guy," Flacco said. "That's a big play right there. We were in field-goal range already, and we wanted to convert on third down.

"But at the same time, we've got to hold on to the ball and score some points to take the lead. I did a bad job of doing that."

The bottom line was this: In a game they desperately needed, the Ravens were held to five field goals by Billy Cundiff, who could've run for mayor if the Ravens had pulled out a win.

Instead they're 5-5 with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town next weekend, probably in a swell mood after their 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Tough day for Flacco. Tough day for the Ravens.

Playoffs!?!

Cue the Jim Mora beer commercial.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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