This game set up as a dreadful scenario for the Ravens by almost any logical measure. With their playoff hopes essentially shot, they traveled across the country to face one of the most balanced teams in the league, one with the kind of skilled receiving corps that could embarrass a tattered secondary.
Under the circumstances, they really didn’t deliver a bad effort. Joe Flacco played a clean game until his last throw and led the Ravens to a rare first-half lead. The defensive front seven stuffed plenty of plays near the line of scrimmage. Even the much-maligned secondary held up reasonably well until the fourth quarter.
This team is 1-6 and still hasn’t lost by more than one score.
John Harbaugh said it last week and he was right — the Ravens are losing principally because they’re surrendering far more long plays than they’re making.
It felt almost surreal to watch Brandon Williams drag Cardinals running back Chris Johnson down on top of him, only for Johnson to pop up in the absence of a whistle and dash for 62 yards.
You can blame that on a lack of alertness. It’s also just freaky.
With the Ravens in position to build on a 10-7 lead just before halftime, Jeremy Ross was stripped on a punt return, and Asa Jackson compounded the mistake with a roughing penalty that set the Cardinals up on the 12-yard line.
It was precisely the sort of sequence that has gone against this team over and over. The Ravens rank middle of the pack in committing turnovers, but they’re second to last in the NFL at forcing them (an area where they also struggled in 2014). So their differential is also poor. Almost all of the best teams in the league cause more turnovers than they cough up.
Some of that is bad luck. Ross, for example, could have just as easily been called down on that misbegotten return.
But it’s hard to deny the frustration of such plays is heightened when the team is trying to cope with other significant shortcomings.
In no way am I suggesting the Ravens are a good team hiding beneath a thin cloak of poor fortune. But according to the tenets of statistical analysis, turnovers and performance in close games do even out over time. That means the Ravens remain a solid bet to improve, especially given that they’ll play six of their last nine at home.