Patriots vs. Ravens: Takeaways from Baltimore's 41-7 Loss to New England
In the Baltimore Ravens' last home game of the year, they didn't give their fans a happy memory of the 2013 season. The New England Patriots dominated the Ravens, handing Baltimore the worst home loss in franchise history.
There was plenty to take away from the game, but none of it was particularly positive. Baltimore was totally outplayed and outcoached, and there were problems in every phase of the game.
Penalties were a major issue, as were problems converting on third down, and the Ravens never mentally checked in to the game. Even Justin Tucker missed his lone field-goal attempt.
Here are the most important takeaways from the Ravens' most disappointing performance of the season, including how the 41-7 loss affects the playoff picture.
Penalties, Penalties and More Penalties
In an absolutely critical game, the Ravens didn't play their smartest football. They committed seven penalties that gave up 65 yards in the first half alone and shot themselves in the foot repeatedly.
Every phase of the game was plagued by penalties, but it wasn't just the sheer number of penalties. It was the critical timing of the penalties that took Baltimore out of the contention in the first half.
On New England's second drive of the game, a pass interference penalty gave the Pats the ball on Baltimore's 1-yard line, where they punched in the first score of the game.
Then there was the silly running into the kicker penalty that almost kept the Patriots on the field if not for a New England false start on the subsequent play.
All in all, nine penalties cost the Ravens 83 yards and took them out of the game in the first 30 minutes. Baltimore has been a flag magnet all season, ranking ninth in league in penalties per game, according to NFLPenalties.com.
It's not just the yards, but the lack of focus that has to be frustrating head coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens weren't ready to play, and they got demolished as a result. The same thing will occur in Week 17 if Baltimore isn't mentally engaged.
Joe Flacco's Knee Injury Doesn't Look Serious
It's a play that has taken out many quarterbacks before, but Baltimore dodged a bullet. Joe Flacco only suffered a mild MCL sprain after a Detroit Lions defensive lineman went headfirst into the quarterback's knee.
The injury clearly wasn't too serious at the time, as the durable signal-caller didn't miss a snap, but he was listed as questionable for Week 16. He suited up and extended his iron-man streak of consecutive starts.
Despite his start, Ravens fans were anxious to see how he would perform.
In the early going, it looked like the injury (or at least the hefty brace he was wearing) was affecting him, as he didn't display any kind of mobility (scrambling or movement in the pocket) in the first half and even tripped over his own feet in an extremely clumsy sequence.
In addition, he underthrew a couple of passes—one of which resulted in an interception—which also could be a result of his hesitation to plant on his front foot.
For the last 30 minutes, however, Flacco looked much better. He was driving throws down the field and even made some plays with his feet, rolling out or evading pressure.
With another week of rest, the knee shouldn't be a significant problem in Week 17.
3rd-Down Woes Continue
Entering Week 16, the Ravens ranked 17th in the league, converting just 37 percent of their third downs, according to TeamRankings.com. That number is going to get even smaller, as they converted just five of 14 third downs against the Patriots, and Joe Flacco was sacked three times on third down.
The blame can be divided among all positional groups. It starts with the running game, as the inability to run the football forces the offense into 3rd-and-long situations. Additionally, the offensive line did a terrible job in third-down pass protection and can't recognize blitzes.
Furthermore, some of the blame has to go to Joe Flacco for being inaccurate on the "money down," and on one occasion, he even stepped up right into a sack.
Lastly, the wide receivers are giving Flacco zero help in terms of beating their defenders and making tough catches.
The offense needs to be better on early downs, but the poor performance on third down will haunt the Ravens and prevent them from making the postseason if it continues in Week 17.
Justin Tucker's Streak Is Over
Justin Tucker's streak lived on after his heroic 61-yard game-winner in Week 15. It didn't live very long, however, as he missed his only attempt against the Patriots from 37 yards.
The kick would have helped the Ravens, but realistically they were so completely outplayed by the Patriots that the three points didn't really matter in the end.
It does mean that Tucker has to start anew, and he fell short of setting the franchise record—which belongs to Matt Stover, who knocked in 37 straight field goals.
Tucker's streak ended at 33, but the fact that he was even up there at the young age of 24 is promising. The only kickers with streaks longer than Tucker were all over 30 for theirs.
Something tells me that Tucker will have at least one more chance to beat Matt Stover for the franchise record.
Dennis Pitta Is Still a Work in Progress
Dennis Pitta's amazing Week 14 comeback got many Ravens fans (myself included) excited about how he could significantly improve the Ravens offense. In all the hoopla, it was easy to forget that he was coming back from an extremely serious injury and was still working off the rust.
He is still on a tight leash, playing around 30 snaps in every game since coming back and is working to regain the chemistry he had with Joe Flacco last season.
That lack of chemistry was evident for Flacco's second interception, when Flacco expected the tight end to keep working toward the sideline, but Pitta stopped in his tracks.
Pitta is certainly an important part of the Ravens offense, but it will take him some time to get back to his 2012 form.
The humbling loss puts Baltimore's playoff destiny out of its hands.
It's unfortunate that the last time Ravens fans saw their team in person was that monstrosity of a performance, as the loss handed the division crown to the Cincinnati Bengals and erased any hopes of Baltimore getting a home playoff game.
Now, the Ravens need some help to make the playoffs. There are three teams that are currently 8-7: the Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens. If those three teams tie, the Dolphins would make the playoffs thanks to their conference record.
If the Ravens tie with the Dolphins or the Chargers, Baltimore would make the playoffs since it holds the tiebreaker over both teams.
With so many scenarios at play, the Ravens can only focus on what they can control: beating the Bengals in Week 17. Without a win, all the scenarios are meaningless, and the Ravens will be watching the postseason from their couches at home.