xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Ravens struggled vs. Browns as injuries mounted

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," said running back Justin Forsett after an overtime loss to the Browns, 33-30. "We've got a whole bunch of fighters in that locker room who've got to just keep fighting." (Kevin Richardson)

In the moments after their overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Ravens medical staff chased down the last on a long list of battered players who needed treatment.

No matter the long-term prognoses for those players, the team saw the effect of the mounting injuries to stars and substitutes in a deflating, 33-30 defeat at the hands of the AFC North rival Browns.

Advertisement

Five players — running back Justin Forsett, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Will Davis, and wide receiver Darren Waller — left the loss with injuries.

Whether their injures made worse an existing depth issue or dredged up down-the-depth-chart players who weren't ready to contribute, the injuries are a difficult reality for the team to grapple with as their reliable veteran core falls apart one player at a time.

Advertisement
Advertisement

"You have to deal with it," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We might have a lot right now, [but] it's just part of the game, and you can't use that as an excuse."

Coach John Harbaugh's team already entered the game with significant injuries. Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., their leading receiver, missed the game with microfractures in his back. Top tight end Crockett Gillmore sat for a second straight week with a strained calf, as did starting defensive end Chris Canty. First-round NFL draft pick Breshad Perriman hasn't played all season because of a PCL sprain.

In the second half Sunday, they lost two of their three Pro Bowl players from a year ago — Dumervil and Forsett. Dumervil didn't return from halftime after a groin injury suffered late in the first half, leaving the Ravens without either half of the league's most productive pass-rush duo from a season ago.

Dumervil and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1, combined for a league-high 29 sacks in 2014.

Advertisement

In the second half, the team's main pass-rush options on the outside were rookie Za'Darius Smith and free-agent signing Jason Babin, who combined for no sacks, no quarterback hits, and three second-half penalties.

"They brought us here to do a job," Za'Darius Smith said. "Our job came earlier [than I thought]."

Forsett's injury came on a play that nearly won the Ravens the game. At the end of a 32-yard catch-and-run deep in Cleveland territory with 1:38 remaining, his ankle was rolled up on a tackle. Forsett, who by then had 121 yards on the ground, left the game.

Rookie Buck Allen was the only other running back dressed, with Lorenzo Taliaferro inactive, and had three carries for five yards the rest of the way.

How long Forsett will be out wasn't clear after the game — he said he hadn't been evaluated yet.

"It's tough," Forsett said of the drives without him, on which he said he would have done more damage by playing. "You want to be out there and help your team win, and you can't do any help on the sideline."

The injuries to Dumervil and Forsett forced the Ravens to scramble, as did Waller's third-quarter concussion, but no position was hit harder than cornerback.

The sad parade into the training room began midway through the second quarter with Davis, who suffered a knee injury and didn't return. On that same drive, Webb suffered a thigh injury. He was announced as probable to return, but didn't step on the field again.

Losing Davis and Webb meant trouble almost immediately. Kyle Arrington came off the bench to replace Webb opposite Jimmy Smith in the base defense, while safety Terrence Brooks was the fifth defensive back in nickel formations. Brooks hadn't worked there all week, and the personnel grouping was immediately tested. The issue grew when Arrington needed medical attention in overtime, forcing rookie Tray Walker into service for the first time in his career.

Without Webb and Davis, the defense seemed to buckle. After being held to two field goals in their first five possessions, the Browns scored three touchdowns and kicked two field goals on their final eight drives. Browns quarterback Josh McCown threw for 457 yards, and the Browns had 505 yards of offense, eighth-most ever allowed by a Ravens defense.

"It's huge when your players go down, but it's no excuse," Jimmy Smith said. "The next man has got to stand up. We practice this all the time, so it's no excuse."

"This is the NFL," safety Kendrick Lewis said. "Everybody is here for a reason. The next man has to step up, and we can't miss a beat. … If a starter goes down, that's part of the game. Injuries are a part of the game. If you come in the game, you're a starter."

On Sunday, especially on defense, the gulf between the injured players and those who replaced them seemed too large to overcome. Several players, including Brooks, spoke of the need to maintain a high standard when reserves come in.

"At the end of the day, everybody gets paid," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "Just because you're second or third on the depth chart, that doesn't mean that you don't have expectations for you that are high. … You have to be ready to go."

twitter.com/JonMeoli

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement