Welcome to the Ravens 10-Pack, where reporter Jon Meoli hits on 10 stats, notes, and thoughts following a 34-33, gut-punch home loss to the San Diego Chargers. Read ahead for notes on the secondary, which overshadowed a winning performance, plus Justin Tucker's quietly good season, and where all the rookies have gone.
1. The farther along this 10-pack got, the more negative it seemed, but most of that negativity stems from the fact that the Ravens had a 10-point lead with six minutes to play and the loss somehow felt inevitable as it was happening. There was a lot of good, including running back Justin Forsett, the offensive line, and for the most part, quarterback Joe Flacco. The offense scored 33 points, and has a decent idea of what it wants to be. But when you can't stop a good opposing quarterback, one who's not going to be flustered by pressure and can read coverage, what can you do?
2. I'd ask where do the Ravens go from here with their pass defense, which has allowed more than 800 yards in the last two games, can go, but there's only really one spot to go. Down. The Ravens have allowed just 132 fewer yards than the Atlanta Falcons, who have the league's worst pass defense, and seem destined for the bottom of that category in the league. No sooner does something seem to work do teams see it on film and work to pick it apart. Philip Rivers got to the line quickly, read the defense, and adjusted accordingly. Pro Football Focus' stats indicate that he threw five passes away, meaning that 34 of the 40 passes he tried to complete were caught. There were just too many open receivers, and there might not be many more options to fix it.
3. Reserve safety Jeromy Miles started alongside Will Hill in place of Darian Stewart at free safety and played a season-high 72 snaps in his first start of the year, signaling yet another change at safety. Matt Elam began the game in a run-stopping nickel position and stayed there, rookie Terrence Brooks didn't play a snap, and Stewart played just three. The Ravens have continually said they'd tinker until they found the formula, but this late in the season, I doubt anyone thought Miles playing nearly every snap of a game against a playoff team was that formula.
4. The Chargers' no-huddle offense prevented the Ravens from making many substitutions on defense, which tired the pass rush and limited the defensive line combinations available to defensive coordinator Dean Pees. One symptom of that was nose tackle Brandon Williams taking a season-low 13 snaps, according to PFF. With the Chargers throwing all over, Williams' run-stuffing ability was rendered moot, and he only got on the field situationally.
5. After last year's headline-grabbing season, kicker Justin Tucker is kind of excelling under the radar this year for the Ravens. He made four more field goals Sunday, the longest from 33 yards, to move to 25 of 28 on the season. His three misses this year are 55-, 57-, and 64-yard field-goal attempts, and he hasn't missed since attempting that record-setting 64-yard try in Tampa Bay in Week 6. Had wide receiver Kamar Aiken made it out of bounds to stop the clock on the game's final drive, Tucker would have had around a 60-yard attempt to win the game. Anyone else think he'd have made it? I sure do.
6. The Ravens ended the game with Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, and Jacoby Jones as their three wide receivers on the field, with Marlon Brown out with a concussion as he looked to be getting in rhythm and Torrey Smith out with an apparent knee injury as he missed the final two drives. Losing Torrey Smith for any amount of time would be an enormous loss. Not only has Torrey Smith drawn a league-high 10 pass interference penalties for 199 yards, but he leads the Ravens with eight touchdown catches and has been as reliable as he has been in his whole career for quarterback Joe Flacco.
7. Flacco played, statistically, one of his best games of the season. PFF graded him at 6.6, his passer rating was 115.9, and he accounted for all three Ravens touchdowns on 19 of 31 passing. I'm not one to nitpick Flacco -- I feel like I very much understand what he is -- but it seemed, somehow, like the offense was still a bit off in the passing game. Flacco almost had too much time at times and grew indecisive, leaving plays on the table that could have put the game out of reach. Let's be clear, there are plenty of others in line for blame before him, but in a game in which Philip Rivers won it single-handedly for his team, Flacco's effort didn't do that.
8. Have the Ravens arrived at the rookie wall? Brooks and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro weren't part of the game plan Sunday. Tight end Crockett Gillmore struggled in run blocking, according to PFF, though he had a 31-yard completion negated by a penalty. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan had a sack, his second in three games, but played sparingly because of the no-huddle. And star linebacker C.J. Mosley had just six total tackles and is a target in coverage. Entering the bye week, tight end Owen Daniels said contributions from rookies ease the load on the team's star veterans. When the rookies don't contribute, we're seeing the results.
9. Maybe we know how outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil has racked up most of his 12.5 sacks this year? The team's leading pass rusher was called offsides for lining up in the neutral zone three times, and the team was flagged for that five times in what was an undisciplined game for the Ravens. Rivers said he was mostly using a silent count, and the long wait time at the line of scrimmage while he adjusted the play call could have impacted the Ravens in that category. But in a game that the pass rush needed to protect the secondary, it couldn't exactly do it -- or stay onsides.
10. It's another boastful week in the "Three-star accountability corner," where I got one player very right, another kind of, and another even less kind of. Justin Forsett didn't score, but had a 100-yard game and got past the 1,000-yard mark on the season, so he might qualify. San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen caught two scores and had more than 100 receiving yards, so he blew my projection away. I'm undecided on taking credit for Jacoby Jones, who the Chargers squib kicked away from for most of the game. When he did get his hands on one, Jones almost ran it back. But then his fumble late in the game cost the Ravens field position. Either way, he didn't score, so he probably shouldn't have been included.