With all of the huge headlines heading into the AFC Wild Card matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens, it was sure to be a great game. In Ray Lewis’ last game in M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens not only won, but did so decisively. However, not all was well and good as some glaring issues were overshadowed by the plethora of emotional story lines.
On Sunday, the Ravens won by 15 points and did not allow an offensive touchdown – impressive feats against a fearsome Colts team. This was still a great playoff win but the Ravens played poorly in a few aspects that kept this game closer than it should have been.
The first and most obvious problem was turnovers. Ray Rice uncharacteristically fumbled the ball twice on Sunday, halting two Ravens drives that were destined to lead to a score. After the game, Rice pointed out that he had not fumbled this entire season. While this is true, it’s no justification for it to happen during the playoffs. Had this been a closer game and the defense not performed the way it did, those two turnovers may have easily cost the Ravens the game. Although Rice isn’t a fumbler, he sure looked like one with his poor carrying technique as the ball was swinging away from him loosely. Hopefully this will be good for Rice going forward as he’ll take extra precaution during the rest of the playoffs.
While still on the topic of turnovers, Joe Flacco had none. No interceptions on the day, however he did have an easy one dropped that would likely have gone all the way to the house. Towards the end of the 1st quarter, Flacco scrambled out of the pocket and tried to hit Torrey Smith going across the middle but threw very far behind him, in and out of the hand of Colts’ cornerback Vontae Davis. It was a very inaccurate pass and had Davis caught it, it would have completely changed the dynamic of the game.
Since Tandon Doss was drafted in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, I’ve heard people rave about his fantastic hands. Both his coaches and teammates always go on about his sure hands and how he never drops a ball in practice. For some unknown reason, that hasn’t translated into games as Doss has dropped numerous passes including three on Sunday. Two were in the end zone that would have been touchdowns and the other would have converted a long third down. Even though the last pass was a difficult catch and overthrown by Flacco, it was still catchable and hit Doss in the hands. The other two were inexcusable as they ruined a great drive and forced the Ravens to kick a field goal deep inside the red zone. Doss hasn’t been used a whole lot but I expect a lot more of him when he has the chance to make plays.
On the defensive side of the ball, the key phrase was missed opportunities. The Ravens’ D was stout all day, but was also aided by some mistakes by the Colts offense. The Colts left a lot of points on the field. Inside the Ravens’ ten, Andrew Luck threw a bad pass on a quick screen to Reggie Wayne would have set up first and goal from inside the five, if not a touchdown. Also, kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 40-yard field goal that would have cut the Ravens’ lead to 5. In addition, two of the Ravens’ biggest stars dropped sure interceptions. Ed Reed made an attempt at a diving grab early in the 1st half, but was unable to get his hands under the ball while Ray Lewis dropped a tipped ball that bounced right off of his hands. It was almost disconcerting to have two of the Raven’s most reliable players miss two golden opportunities during a playoff game of such importance.
The biggest difference between Super Bowl caliber teams and the rest is that the former will not let opportunities slip away. While the Ravens still played a great game overall, they left too many plays on the field which is definitely not a positive thing as we look forward to the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning rarely makes mistakes, but if he does, will the Ravens be able to take advantage of them? If we base our decision on last week’s game, then the answer is no.