Sunday's game was a disaster for the Ravens offense. The offensive line was getting punctured by the Bills up front. The running game was so ineffective John Harbaugh pulled the plug at halftime. Two of their wide receivers got banged up. And quarterback Joe Flacco had already thrown four interceptions. Despite all that, the Ravens started two drives late in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to take the lead. The first one ended with a field goal after Ray Rice couldn't come down with a jump ball in the end zone. The second one started at the Baltimore 37-yard line with the Ravens down, 23-20, with 2:20 left. "I'm proud of the fact that our guys keep playing," coach John Harbaugh said Sunday evening. "I believe we have a quarterback that can keep you in any game at any time. We all felt that way at the end." The Ravens moved the ball to midfield, and after a rare rushing attempt for Rice and an incomplete deep ball to wide receiver Torrey Smith, the Ravens faced third-and-8 with just over a minute left to play. The Ravens, as was the case for most of the second half, were in their 11 personnel. Smith was isolated on the right sideline. Marlon Brown was lined up wide left with Tandon Doss next to him in the slot and Dallas Clark flexed out next to Doss. Rice was a backfield sidecar next to Flacco, who was in the shotgun. But in an instant, Flacco would throw his fifth interception, tying his career high and ending the game.
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With the Ravens running the ball just twice in final 34 minutes of the game, the Bills had been getting the green light to chase after Flacco. They sacked him four times and hit him eight other times. In doing so, they were speeding up his internal clock, forcing him to get the ball out sooner than he would like. "[When] you don't have a chance to let things develop, then you've got to push the ball somewhere pretty quickly before the route develops," Harbaugh explained Monday. "For instance, if we're running some kind of a high-low route, if you don't have time to let the high route develop, they can jump on the low routes pretty quickly. ... That happened on a couple of them where he didn't have a chance." One of those instances was Flacco's final interception, when the Bills quickly collapsed the pocket with a four-man rush. Flacco was not hit, but Bills star Mario Williams got a step on right tackle Michael Oher. The Bills were in what appeared to be quarters coverage on the trips side, with the outside cornerbacks dropping deep down the sidelines and the two safeties patrolling the deep middle of the field. The Bills shaded former Ravens safety Jim Leonhard deeper on Smith's side and cornerback Brandon Burton bumped Smith at the line of scrimmage, forced him to the outside and then trailed him down the right sideline. Their two linebackers -- one of them rookie Kiko Alonso -- and nickel corner were in intermediate zones.
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Each week, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players and coaches, from that week's game. Today, he looks at Joe Flacco's fifth and final interception Sunday.