Flags threaten Ravens' playoff hopes

Ravens are second most penalized team in NFL

they had 12 infractions in Lambeau loss

December 09, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Even after their unsightly 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, the Ravens still have a shot at the playoffs because they don't face a team with a winning record the rest of the way.

The Ravens' biggest opponent over the final four weeks of the regular season might be themselves - or the officials, depending on your perspective.

Penalties have dogged the Ravens throughout the season and have cost them a chance to keep pace in the AFC wild-card race.

The Ravens' 12 penalties at Lambeau Field were the most in the 31-game John Harbaugh era. Their five pass-interference penalties (four of which were on the defense) were the most by a team in a single game since the New York Giants in 2001, according to Stats Inc.

There's no simple explanation to the Ravens' penalty problems, according to Harbaugh.

"It's not discipline," Harbaugh said. "That word just rankles me because it's just too easy. It's not what it is. It's the way you play the technique.

"Some of the interference calls were good calls. Some of them, I don't know where the interference was," Harbaugh said. "But you coach your guys to keep your hands off of them, run with them and make a play on the ball. I think we've really been a lot better at that for the last four or five weeks, and all of a sudden, it showed up today for both sides."

The Ravens and Packers combined for 310 penalty yards, tied for the second-most in NFL history. Only the Packers have more penalties and penalty yards than the Ravens (90 penalties for 868 yards) this season.

Such mistakes could hurt the Ravens again if they continue through the final quarter of the season against the Detroit Lions (2-10), Chicago Bears (5-7), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6) and Oakland Raiders (4-8).

The Ravens (6-6) are one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5) for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot. The Jaguars still have to play home games against the Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts before ending the regular season at New England.

"We've got four games left, and we got to make it right," Harbaugh said. "We've got plenty to be encouraged about. We're in a tight race for the wild card; we are every bit in it."

Entering Monday night's game, the Ravens had been encouraged by the lack of penalties by their secondary. But their four-game streak without committing pass interference ended at Lambeau Field.

The Ravens' four defensive pass-interference penalties accounted for 80 yards.

"You see what's happening," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "You couldn't touch them before. You really, really can't touch them. That's what it is. You just grow with it."

Foxworth was flagged for the first pass interference after tapping the left wrist of wide receiver Greg Jennings on a comeback route.

In the second quarter, Frank Walker's infraction was more blatant, because he grabbed Jennings to stop him from running down the sideline for a deep pass. Later in the quarter, rookie Lardarius Webb hooked wide receiver Donald Driver on a slant. The penalties against Walker and Webb led to Green Bay touchdowns.

In the third quarter, Dawan Landry put his hand on Driver on what appeared to be an uncatchable pass.

"It seems like week after week you're getting less rights as a defensive back," Foxworth said. "I don't remember each and every pass-interference penalty. That penalty by nature is not a clear-cut this or that. It seems week by week, year after year, it seems to be leaning more toward the offense."

Asked whether the officials called the game too tightly, Harbaugh said, "I don't judge that."

The Ravens' last pass-interference penalty was called on the offense. Derrick Mason was flagged for pushing cornerback Charles Woodson as the wide receiver came back to make a 47-yard catch.

Mason complained vehemently to side judge James Coleman, who called a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. So, instead of threatening to take the lead (the Ravens were trailing 17-14 at that point in the fourth quarter), the Ravens were backed up to their 6-yard line because of the double penalty. Mason declined to talk to reporters after a game for the second time this season.

"That should never happen," Harbaugh said of the penalty. "Derrick has got to keep his poise there, come off the field and not compound the problem."

With the Ravens down 27-14 on their final drive, offensive tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither had false starts.

"There's no reason to do that," Harbaugh said. "We know what the snap count is. So, you don't start early."

Despite the Ravens' loss, there is a likelihood that a 9-7 team could make the playoffs in the AFC. But some Ravens players believe they have to finish 10-6, which would require them to win the rest of their games.

"We've got no choice now," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "We've backed ourselves against the wall. I don't think 9-7 is going to get it done. We've done this to ourselves."

Flag bearers
The five most penalized teams in the NFL: TeamPenaltiesYardsGreen Bay98905Ravens90868Philadelphia90721Dallas88674Cincinnati81643

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