Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith declined to stop on his way out of the locker room and discuss his crucial – and questionable – unnecessary roughness penalty on Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota late in the second quarter.
However, his head coach and teammates had plenty to say about the call which came on the near sideline after Mariota had thrown the ball away on third down. Instead of having to attempt a field goal to pad their four-point lead, the Titans got a first down on the penalty and wound up scoring on Derrick Henry’s 2-yard touchdown run. That score and the penalty loomed large as the Titans held on for a 23-20 victory over the Ravens at Nissan Stadium.
“I didn’t see it,” Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs admitted, but he still had an opinion on it. “In this league, the refs are going to protect the quarterbacks, except for ours, of course. Even after that play, we still had a chance to win the game. There’s going to be plays like that that you wish you can have back, but even with that happening, we still had a chance to win.”
Suggs’ comment about the NFL not protecting the Ravens’ quarterback was in reference to Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso not getting a suspension or even a significant fine for his high hit that left Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco with a concussion in the team’s previous game.
Smith’s hit was far less violent than Alonso’s. In fact, the Ravens linebacker appeared to just nudge Mariota after he got rid of the ball. However, the Tennessee Titans quarterback, who was hit hard by Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon after throwing the ball away in the first quarter, seemed to sell the call a bit.
The consensus in the Ravens’ locker room was that it was a ticky-tack call, but they didn’t absolve Smith for even making contact with Mariota.
“I thought he shouldn't have done it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “That kind of situation, I don't know how hard it was. Anything like that, that's not for me to judge, really. But it's unnecessary to even try to even do that in that situation.”
Said Ravens safety Eric Weddle: “It was a bad call, but it happened and they called it. So, it’s our fault. He shouldn’t put himself in that position, especially early in the game when Judon killed Mariota and they could have easily called it there. So you knew anything close they were going to call.
“It’s just dumb football. We’re not good enough to overcome things right now. It’s all of us. It’s not one guy. It’s not one side of the ball.”
Flacco gets down quicker: Playing just 10 days after sustaining a concussion against the Dolphins, Flacco said he felt good and had no issues. He also made sure there wasn’t a repeat of the Alonso hit.
On a similar-looking play early in the fourth quarter, Flacco kept the ball and ran for seven yards down to the Titans’ 5-yard line. However, he got into his slide quickly before a Tennessee player could hit him.
“I probably slid a little bit earlier,” Flacco said. “But I knew I wasn’t getting in the end zone and it wasn’t third down where I was trying to get a first down “
Tucker doesn’t get the distance: The Ravens chances to get the ball back following Mike Wallace’s 1-yard touchdown catch with 46 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game hinged on them recovering Justin Tucker’s onside kick attempt. However, they never got the chance.
Tucker faked kicking it to the Tennessee side of the field where more Titans were and instead back heeled the ball, soccer style, toward the Ravens’ sideline. The onside attempt, though, never went the required 10 yards. The Titans took over possession and then took a knee to seal the win.
“I felt like I hit it the exact same way I do in practice and it just didn’t happen to roll,” Tucker said. “It might have hit a soft spot. When you’re playing on a grass field toward the end of the game, stuff can get chewed up a little bit. That was just my instant reaction — thinking maybe it just hit the soft spot and didn’t want to go. At the end of the day, I want to be as close as perfect as possible. Leaving the onside kicker definitely stings.”
Tucker was 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts and he called the windy conditions in Nashville among the toughest that he’s had to kick in during his NFL career.
Stanley leaves, then returns: Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley was limited in practice all week because of a shoulder injury. He aggravated the injury in the third quarter throwing a block down-the-field on a Maxx Williams’ screen play, but Stanley did return after missing parts of two drives.
“It's good enough right now, at least good enough to have gotten me through the game,” Stanley said. “The shoulder is going to be alright. On that screen play that is my job to sacrifice my body for my teammates to make more yards and that is what I was trying to do."
End zone: Weddle’s fourth-quarter interception was his third of the season, tying Brandon Carr for the team lead. ... Activated from injured reserve earlier in the week, cornerback Maurice Canady played extensively on special teams and also was used in the slot defensively. “It felt good getting back into the swing of things, but the only goal in mind is a win. I would’ve rather had the end result and a win.” … The Ravens scratched running back Terrance West (calf), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (shoulder), tight end Nick Boyle (toe), offensive guard Maurquice Shakir, outside linebacker Tim Williams (hamstring), defensive end Bronson Kaufusi and safety Chuck Clark (hamstring). … Playing for just the second time in the past seven games, Williams caught three balls for 29 yards. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin led the Ravens with eight catches for 98 yards. … Punter Sam Koch’s 16-yard completion to Chris Moore on a successful fake point in the first quarter was the third completion of his career. … The Titans held a homecoming weekend and welcomed back more than 80 of their former players, who took part in a halftime ceremony. Tyler and Trent McNair, the sons of late Titans and Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, were also recognized as honorary captains.
Mike Preston contributed to this article.