The Baltimore Ravens have lost in overtime to the Washington Redskins, 31-28. This devastating loss now puts the Ravens on a two-game losing streak and sets up serious doubts for how this team will perform in the season's closing stretch.
Surprisingly, though, it wasn't phenomenon Robert Griffin III who won the game for Washington. Instead fellow rookie Kirk Cousins was behind center, and he threw the late touchdown before running in the game-tying two-point conversion.
This touchdown occurred on an 85-yard drive where the Ravens defense squandered multiple opportunities to stop the Redskins offense. Although the defense sacked Griffin three times and recovered two fumbles, it still looked completely powerless against the Redskins both at the game's beginning and the game's end.
The defense does not deserve all the blame, though. The offensive production was very sporadic, and it was ultimately unable to do anything during its one possession in overtime. The special teams contributed too with its awful coverage on a punt return in overtime.
Where they did lose ground, though, is in the hunt for a first-round bye where both Denver and New England have better records than them. Next week's game against the Broncos is now absolutely a must-win for the Ravens to have any sort of first-round bye aspirations.
As the Ravens begin their preparations for this huge game and try to move on from the loss, let's take a look at the winners and losers from today's game.
The fans who constantly complain about Ray Rice not getting enough carries have no ammunition today. Rice had 20 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown while also adding three catches for 15 yards.
This was Rice's best rushing day in the entire 2012 season. Throughout the whole game, running lanes were easy to find and Rice was quick to capitalize on them. His long run of 46 yards was his longest run of the season.
Credit should also go out to Bernard Pierce, who had his best rushing day as a pro with 53 rushing yards. Clearly both running backs had a great day and the running attack is one of the positives that can be taken away from the loss.
The Redskins were among the worst pass-rushing teams in the entire league entering this game. Yet they still got to Joe Flacco twice and were able to consistently pressure him.
Blame for this goes to the awful play of the offensive line. Mostly for the play of Michael Oher and Jah Reid who were dreadful in pass protection.
While Reid is still a young backup who is learning how to play the game, Oher's mistakes are pretty inexcusable. He struggles with false starts and other offensive penalties so much so that it's a little weird that he didn't have any today. He also gets routinely beat by the defensive linemen that he matches up against.
At this point, it's a little surprising that the Ravens continue to put Oher on the field as a starter, especially with a capable veteran in Bryant McKinnie behind him on the depth chart. McKinnie started 12 games at left guard last season, and he was generally solid in that role while also limiting mistakes. With the struggles the offensive line has had, maybe it would be wise to take a better look at what he can do.
Even though he only had two tackles, Haloti Ngata was one of the better defensive players today. His impact was mostly through the pressure that he consistently brought on Robert Griffin III.
Two of Ngata's hits on Griffin were notable plays that shaped the game. The first was a controversial roughing the passer penalty that kept a Redskins' drive alive. Although Ngata appeared not to have hit Griffin with the crown of his helmet, the penalty was still called and the Redskins would go on to score a touchdown on that drive.
The second hit on Griffin was the one that ultimately took him out of the game late in the fourth quarter. Ngata's hit landed directly on Griffin's right knee and clearly put him in serious pain.
When it was clear that Griffin could no longer play and Kirk Cousins was coming in, the Ravens thought they had the Redskins right where they wanted. Thanks in large part to a defensive meltdown, Cousins was able to complete the comeback.
While many Ravens defensive players are to blame here, Ngata is not one of them, and his toughness was a welcome sight on a day where the defense was clearly lacking in it.
Honestly if he had won the game, Joe Flacco would be in the winners category here. His numbers were actually pretty good as he went 16-of-21, throwing for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
He did have turnover issues though which brings down his performance considerably. He threw an awful red-zone pick to London Fletcher. Flacco also had two fumbles, one of which was recovered by the defense.
Between these turnovers and his inability to make the throws when they counted most, Flacco deserves some of the blame for this loss. Despite his three touchdowns, he also failed to eclipse 200 passing yards, and he had awful pocket presence the whole day.
It's yet another bad road game for Flacco and serves as more doubt that he can pull through when it matters. Offensive line concerns may have contributed to his struggles, but at this point Flacco should be able to take a hit or find the open receiver down the field. Complain as much as you want about Cam Cameron, but it's developments like these that even Flacco fans have to feel worried about.
Paul Kruger is one of those players that has been improving almost every week. He has now had at least one sack in five straight games and leads the team with eight sacks on the season.
Kruger added another 1.5 sacks today while also collecting two tackles and recovering a fumble. The fumble was aided by Ma'ake Kemoeatu who removed the ball from Alfred Morris's hands. Kruger then picked it up and ran back nine yards.
Thanks to his increased sack production, Kruger is now looking like he could be the answer for the pass rush. He's been playing with tenacity too and really looks like he could challenge for a starting job in the near future.
One of the main reasons why the defense has struggled so much is because of injuries. Today was the first time in nine years that a Ravens defense suited up without either Terrell Suggs or Ray Lewis playing, even though both of those players could potentially be back soon.
Dannell Ellerbe has mostly played well in place of Lewis yet he had to miss today because of injuries. Jameel McClain had to leave during the third quarter thanks to a neck injury and X-rays have come back negative.
This leaves inexperienced players like Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan playing at middle linebacker. Though these guys can be good, the Ravens really need some of their linebackers to get healthy and return to the field.
It's not all that surprising that the Redskins offense had their way with this patchwork defense. Still, though, excuses aren't going to hold for a team that prides itself on having good depth. If these players don't step up in the next two weeks against the Manning brothers, the defensive play might get even uglier.