EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — It looks like the Ravens hit rock bottom four weeks ago when they allowed four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a 21-point lead and lose to the Miami Dolphins.
And then came Sunday, a 24-20 loss to the New York Giants.
This reverse is not at the bottom of the barrel, but below. The Ravens achieved a new trick on Sunday: they outclassed the Giants.
It was embarrassing, even pitiful at times, as the Ravens controlled the game for more than three quarters. Then, after Lamar Jackson’s 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews gave them a 20-10 lead early in the fourth, they put New York on 14 straight points.
It was reminiscent of the Miami game, but at least the Dolphins have wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It was reminiscent of the Bills game — which the Ravens lost when they allowed 20 unanswered runs — but at least Buffalo has quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
But the Giants? They have a quarterback named Daniel Boone, or Daniel Jones, or something like that. And he led them on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that brought New York to three points with 6:01 left.
And then it got really ugly. Jackson got an early snap from rookie center Tyler Linderbaum, one he had no chance of handling, and made a bigger mistake by rolling to his right and pushing fullback Patrick Ricard back into midfield.
The pass was caught by safety Julian Love and returned 27 yards to the Ravens’ 13. Four plays later, Barkley scored to give the Giants a 24-20 lead with 1:43 to go.
Two plays later, Jackson failed to secure the ball while dropping to pass and was stripped by rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Giants picked it up at the 13-yard line.
“Yeah, we stopped a lot – a lot of missed opportunities, especially in the red zone,” Jackson said. “I feel like we should have scored more points. Small hiccups here and there. We have to correct them because it makes the difference in our game.
“We are just spoiling ourselves. We cannot let this happen. Mistakes happen in practice and shouldn’t happen in the game. But that’s part of NFL football. We try to overcome it, sometimes it happens.
This loss will be difficult to overcome. I’ve seen Jackson before after playoff losses, but this was different. He had never seemed so mentally tired.
And then there was left tackle Ronnie Stanley who slammed his helmet hard on the bench shortly after Jackson fumbled. He’s had his share of disappointments, but he’s never been so demonstrative.
This should be a low point for Jackson. The fumble was somewhat understandable, but the interception, sent back to his body with a lead to protect himself, was just a stupid play, a play he’s escaped with multiple times this season.
He should know better. Jackson is in his fifth season and is trying to get a new contract that would make him the highest paid player in the NFL. This game is unforgivable.
It would be nice to blame Jackson if it weren’t for the ugliness of the Ravens. They had 10 penalties for 74 yards, including four false starts. They had an illegal formation penalty that nullified a first down with 3:09 left and made it third-and-6. Jackson threw the interception on the next play. These penalties are charged to the coach.
“That shouldn’t happen. [The Giants] moved with any call for movement; There is no reason [for that]. We practice this all the time; we practice this constantly. Our defense does. It shouldn’t happen,” coach John Harbaugh said.
“That’s the biggest story for us, is winning the game at the end of the game. Making the plays that need to be made, and not making the mistakes that cost you an opportunity to win the game.
Harbaugh tried to give the Giants credit, but let’s not exaggerate. New York has a new coach in Brian Daboll, and their players are on a mission to show that former coach Joe Judge was the problem, not them. The Giants are a tough group, but they entered the game with the No. 23-ranked offense and No. 26-ranked rush defense, giving up 131.1 rushing yards per game.
The Ravens’ offense pushed them, finishing with 406 total yards and 211 rushing. But they lost because Jackson, who hasn’t played well in three weeks, knocked down receiver Devin Duvernay on two possible touchdown passes in the second and third quarters and missed Andrews on a long pass into the end zone at the second.
They lost because they have two cornerbacks, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, who aren’t quick and have to rough up receivers. The result is what we saw in critical time on Sunday, when Peters’ interception in the end zone was called off because he grabbed receiver Darius Slayton and was flagged for pass interference. Barkley scored the game-winning touchdown on the next play.
At this point, there are a lot of questions to ask about this team. Are they physically fit after faltering in the stretch in three second-half slumps? Why can’t they cover, and why do teams find so many holes between linebackers and secondary in critical time? Playoffs? Let’s not mention that word for a moment.
After the game, the Ravens said the usual good things about winning and losing as a team and putting that loss behind them as they prepare for Cleveland.
But they might not beat the Browns either. They have a good offensive line, a good running game and a very athletic defensive front. They have players who could easily play for other teams.
Due to the legendary tradition of playing great defense in Baltimore, the Ravens have an ugly winning history.
This losing ugliness will not hold.