Yes, I know this is two weeks late. I’m sorry I couldn’t get this out sooner, but I have been very busy recently. Anyway, here is the last edition of Ravens Retrospective Review for the season.
All the Baltimore Ravens needed to do was defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, and they would be in the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Ravens also could have relied on two other teams to punch their ticket to the playoffs. If either the Jacksonville Jaguars had beaten the Tennessee Titans, or the Miami Dolphins had defeated the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore would have won a playoff berth. However, none of these three scenarios happened. The Bills and Jaguars both pulled away from their rivals for the victory. Meanwhile, the Ravens had to stage a comeback over the Bengals to put themselves in position to win the game. In typical Ravens-Bengals fashion, however, it ended with utter disappointment. On 4th and 12 with barely any time left, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton took a shot deep to Tyler Boyd, who caught the ball, and ran for the game-clinching touchdown. That play shocked Ravens fans, as Baltimore essentially choked away a playoff berth.
The Ravens offense sputtered around in the first half of the game. Compared to previous weeks where the offense actually moved the ball, the unit looked unrecognizable. In the first half alone, the Ravens suffered six three-and-out drives. The longest drive of the first half was just five yards. Baltimore’s best drive of the game was a one play touchdown pass to Chris Moore. Moore had set the Ravens up with a long kick return to the seven-yard line. Flacco capitalized with a score on the next play. The Ravens offense was not able to move the ball efficiently through the first half, as the receivers were not able to catch many of the passes. Whether it was because of the extreme cold, or just a lack of concentration, the receivers had trouble hauling in the football. Flacco was able to deliver the ball, but they were unable to catch.
At the start of the second half, the Ravens offense looked to be in a different mode. The Ravens were moving the ball and were able to get all the way down to the Cincinnati 27 yard line. Down by a touchdown, the Ravens opted to keep the ball in the air. Flacco shot it to Chris Moore, who had the two amazing plays at the end of the first half. Despite his previous success, Moore caused a major failure. The football was put right into the hands of Moore, but he was unable to catch it. He bobbled it in the air a few times, finally dropping it. It was then caught by Darqqueze Dennard, who turned the interception into a pick six. After that play, the Ravens offense came out and scored on three consecutive drives. Alex Collins broke away for a 17-yard touchdown run on 4th down, Justin Tucker kicked a 34-yard field goal, and Mike Wallace caught a 6-yard touchdown reception. In the second half, the Ravens increased the team’s score from 10 points to 27 points, but it was not enough to win the game.
The Ravens defense had a very difficult time shutting down the Bengals offense looking to play spoiler. On the very first drive of the game, Cincinnati drove down the field on eight plays and put seven points on the board. The defense could neither stop the running or passing attack, and it was clear that this game was going to be a long one. In the first half of the game, the defense gave up 17 points, already 17 more than their previous matchup. As time was running out in the second half of the game, however, it looked like the defense would be able to keep the Bengals from scoring again, sealing a Ravens victory. This, however, was not the case. The Bengals already had scored a field goal in the second half, bringing their score to 24 points. The Ravens now had the lead, with 27 points. This changed, however, in a play that will forever haunt the minds of Ravens fans.
It was a play that harkened back to last year’s “Immaculate Extension” play, where Antonio Brown was able to cross the goal line with just seconds left to put a dagger through Baltimore’s playoff hopes. This time around, it was even more grueling. Andy Dalton drove the Bengals down to midfield. The Ravens were able to force two incompletions to bring up 3rd and 15. (There was an illegal shift penalty to drop the Bengals back five yards.) On 3rd and 15, Dalton threw to his tight end, Tyler Kroft for just three yards. It looked like the Bengals were stalling out, and the Ravens would get their essential victory. However, on 4th down, with 12 yards to go, Andy Dalton heaved it deep to Tyler Boyd who caught it, broke a couple tackles, and ran for a touchdown. This major defensive breakdown has been so characteristic of the Ravens in the last couple of years, that it should have been expected. Although, it wasn’t expected, and a mass collection of heartbreaks were felt everywhere.
The Baltimore Ravens simply could not come up clutch when it mattered most. The offensive in the first half of the game allowed the Bengals to get out to a massive lead early on but was able to clean up by the second half. The defense also struggled throughout the game but seemed to tighten up by the second half. The unit was, however, unable to make a play when it was needed. The defense gave up a touchdown on the most crucial play of the game. That most crucial play should have also been the easiest to defend. Overall, the Baltimore Ravens receive a grade of C+ for this game overall. It’s the second straight year of Baltimore failing to win a critical game, in order to make the playoffs.