The player that the Ravens spent all week trying to devise a way to contain was finally stopped. Robert Griffin III wasn't on the field after the Washington Redskins' rookie took one more punishing hit in an afternoon filled with them, the last by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, injuring Griffin's knee and knocking him out of the game.
All the Ravens' defense had to do was get one stop against a rookie backup quarterback and a victory and a playoff berth would have been theirs. That stop never came and the Ravens were again forced to watch an opposing kicker split the uprights to seal their fate.
A week after Pittsburgh Steelers' third-string quarterback Charlie Batch beat them, Redskins rookie backup Kirk Cousins tied the game with a touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 29 seconds left in regulation. The Redskins then won it in overtime as Richard Crawford's 64-yard punt return set up Kai Forbath's game-winning 34-yard field goal in the Ravens' 31-28 loss in front of an announced 81,178 at FedEx Field.
For the second straight week, the Ravens blew a fourth-quarter lead and were denied a chance to lock up a playoff berth. The Ravens are now 9-4 and losers of consecutive games for the first time since October of 2009
"It was tough to watch," said running back Ray Rice, who gave the Ravens a 28-20 lead with a 7-yard touchdown run with 4:47 left in the game. "I firmly believed that we had the game won but we didn't."
With Griffin on the sideline after leading his team inside the Ravens' 20, Cousins, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, hit Leonard Hankerson for 16 yards and then found Pierre Garcon alone in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. The Redskins needed a two-point conversion to tie, but even with several Ravens' defenders, including Ed Reed, calling out the quarterback draw, Cousins was able to take the snap and run it up the middle for the conversion.
The Ravens didn't get a first down on the first possession of overtime and then couldn't contain Crawford, who caught Sam Koch's 56-yard punt and sprinted around defenders until he ran out of gas and was tackled by Koch at the Ravens' 24. Three plays later, Forbath ended a grueling back-and-forth game played in wet and sloppy conditions.
"They came in at a crucial time and made those plays at the end with the backup QB making those throws," Reed said. "We knew [Cousins' quarterback draw] was coming, which was crazy, but we have to execute at the end of the day. … It came down to one play executing. That's all that mattered."
While the loss may have been deflating for the Ravens, they did not lose any ground in the standings. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals were both beaten Sunday , meaning that the Ravens still have a two-game lead with three to play in the AFC North. However, the Ravens' chances for a first-round bye continue to fade. Depending on what happens Monday night between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans — the top two seeds in the AFC — the Ravens could be seeded as low as fourth in the conference by late Monday night.
The Denver Broncos, who are 10-3 and will be at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, have passed the Ravens and now they share the same record as the Indianapolis Colts.
"I don't know if people want me to be [ticked] off or [what]," said Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin who caught two touchdowns in the first half. "We're still going to be a playoff team. We're still going to win the [AFC] North. What else can I say? We let one get away today."
In the process, the Ravens may have also lost a couple of key performers. Right guard Marshal Yanda, the team's best offensive lineman, sprained his right ankle in overtime and left the stadium in a walking boot and on crutches. Inside linebacker Jameel McClain left the game in the third quarter with a neck injury, leaving undrafted free agents Albert McClellan and Josh Bynes to man the middle down the stretch. Rice (hip pointer) and fullback Vonta Leach (sprained ankle) were also banged up.
The physical toll added to the frustration in the postgame locker room as reality had set in that the Ravens did virtually everything that they wanted to do against the Redskins (7-6) and they still lost.
"I think we should have won this game," said Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger who had 1.5 of the Ravens' three sacks. "It's just a killer to come down here, play hard, play a full game and lose the way we did. It's just rough. We have to do everything we can to get back this coming week and play a good game. We really need it."
On offense, Flacco broke from his struggles to complete 16-of-21 passes for three touchdowns, 182 yards and a 121.5 quarterback rating. Against the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing defense, the Ravens revived their running game to the tune of 186 yards. Rice had 121 of them, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time since Week 5.
On defense, the Ravens were gouged for 186 yards — a league-high this year for any team — and two touchdowns in the first quarter. But after that, the Ravens, playing without Terrell Suggs, mostly controlled Griffin and hit him at every opportunity.
Still, the Ravens made too many mistakes. Flacco committed two turnovers — a fumble and an interception — in the third quarter and both led to Forbath field goals. On the interception, the Ravens had the ball at the Redskins' 11 and at least figured to have a field goal before Flacco was hit by Ryan Kerrigan and then fluttered a pass up the middle in the arms of Washington's London Fletcher.
For as well as the Ravens played defensively, they allowed the Redskins to drive 85 yards on 13 plays to get the tying touchdown and conversion. Redskins' receivers ran free in the secondary throughout the drive with the final miscue coming when Chris Johnson lost Pierre Garcon in the back of the end zone.
Cousins went 2-for-2 for 26 yards on the final drive and also got a pass interference call on Johnson.
"Obviously, it's a frustrating situation, especially to allow a backup rookie to come in and make plays the way he did," cornerback Cary Williams said. "It's frustrating, but we got to find a way to win. Good teams find a way, and we didn't."