When tight end Dennis Pitta scored a go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes left on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, it looked as if the Ravens were headed to a 7-6 record.
They still ultimately ended up with the win, but what happened in the ensuing two minutes after Pitta’s score was too odd to find an adjective to describe it.
Each team scored twice in the final 120 seconds, and the Vikings’ two offensive scores came much easier than Baltimore’s one (non-special teams) did. On both possessions, it didn’t take Minnesota too long to punch the ball into the end zone. After Pitta’s touchdown, it took just two offensive plays before the Vikings were back on top.
Then after a quick lead change thanks to a Jacoby Jones kickoff return, it took Minnesota a whopping three plays to get the ball across the goal line.
It’s easy to look back on the game and smile because the Ravens still came out on top, but had Baltimore lost, it would have gone down as possibly the worst late-game implosion of the John Harbaugh era.
Both of Minnesota’s scores came as a combined result of Baltimore not being prepared on defense and the slippery turf, and each of the scores almost looked too easy.
Here’s a look at Minnesota’s two touchdowns in the final minutes of Sunday’s game.
After a 27-yard pass to Jerome Simpson to open up Minnesota’s drive, the next play yielded an unexpected call. With Baltimore playing prevent and Adrian Peterson not on the field, defending the run certainly wasn’t the goal for the Ravens, which the Vikings played to their advantage.
Positioned on the Baltimore 41-yard line, the Vikings call the perfect play to catch the Ravens off guard. With the Ravens defense spread out, the Vikings were likely salivating over the option of a run play.
The Vikings match Baltimore’s six-man front with six blockers, and since linebacker Arthur Brown keys in on the quarterback, it’s essentially six-on-five in Minnesota’s favor.
Running back Toby Gerhart hits the second level and has just two men to beat: safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam.
The result? Well, a forgettable one for the back end of the Baltimore secondary.
Gerhart powered his way into the end zone and gave the Vikings the lead for about 10 seconds.
On their next possession, they scored in three plays. On the third play, it was pretty predictable as to who was going to be the intended target.
In the shotgun, the Vikings send rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in motion.
Let’s be honest here: when Patterson was put in motion, who didn’t see a screen coming?
That’s Minnesota’s best way of getting the ball in his hands, and to suggest that the Baltimore defense didn’t see it coming would be absurd.
A screen is exactly what happened.
Credit is due where it’s deserved, and the Vikings’ blocking on this play was superb, but after Patterson turns up field, the Ravens had multiple chances to bring him down.
Exhibit A would be a whiff on an arm tackle and an over pursuit by Ihedigbo which allows Patterson to get through the first wave of defenders.
At this point, he’s off to the races.
The Ravens do have one last man, however, to bring him down: Elam.
The angle Elam has on Patterson in the open field gives him the advantage.
But instead of even getting a hand on Patterson, this is how Elam ends up as Patterson waltzes into the end zone.
Probably not the best method to stop one of the best open-field runners in the NFL.
Both touchdowns can be partially credited to the inability of Ihedigbo and Elam to make a play while defending the third level of the defense.
Baltimore’s lack of readiness on both plays didn’t help the cause, either (though, of course, neither did the field conditions).
Looking back, it would have been an embarrassing result had the Ravens lost given the defense’s ineptitude in the final minutes.
The win makes the defense look better, but it is still a major concern that the Ravens couldn’t close the deal on two different occasions at the end of the game.