Ravens badly missed on opportunity to make statement

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Ravens were involved in a statement game on Sunday, and they sent the wrong message.

If they wanted to prove they were a contending team after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007, they failed.

In fact, some of the same things that kept them from the playoffs in 2013 showed up again in a 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts before a crowd of 65,258 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It's not like Indianapolis had been dominant this seaosn. The Colts lost close games to quality teams — the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles — before beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

The Colts were on their own soul-searching mission.

"It definitely was an important game for us," said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. "To go on the road against a team that has been playing well, yes, I don't know about it being a statement game, but it was an important game for us.

"We wanted to win this one. It always helps to come into a place like this and beat a team like this. It gives you confidence in a lot of things going forward, and we just didn't play the way we wanted to."

Instead, the Ravens are still trying to find themselves. It appeared they had solved some of their weaknesses in the past three weeks with wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers.

But nobody fears those three teams. Cincinnati is a top contender, and the Bengals beat the Ravens. Indianapolis made the playoffs last season, and now the Ravens have lost to them, too.

The Ravens had their chances to win, including a shot at a game-tying touchdown in the final seconds, but they deserved to lose.

They talked about being a physical team with a smash-mouth running game, but Indianapolis had a 17-minute advantage in time of possession. Another goal was for the Ravens to stop giving up big passing plays, but the Colts completed passes of 21, 28, 28 and 30 yards.

Three of those passes came in crunch time in the fourth quarter when the Ravens needed to get Indianapolis off the field, and couldn't.

Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil looked tired, and so did inside linebacker Daryl Smith. The other member of the elder statesmen club, defensive end Chris Canty, was inactive because of an illness and knee injury.

"Second half, they had two long drives, converted some third downs and those kinds of things," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "I [would have] liked to have seen us off the field."

It wasn't any better on offense. The Ravens had not allowed Flacco to be sacked in the past three games, but the Colts kept constant pressure on him. Flacco was sacked four times and hit another six times.

You expected rookie left tackle James Hurst to get beat a couple of times in only his second start, especially in a noisy, domed stadium on the road. But the Ravens couldn't stop outside linebacker Bjoern Werner or end Cory Redding.

When they did, they usually got called for holding. The Ravens couldn't handle Indianapolis blitzes in the second half. Doesn't this sound like last year?

If that doesn't, then this does: The Ravens were stopped on two plays from the Colts 3-yard line, including on a fourth-and-1 early in the second quarter. Instead of taking the field goal, which could have tied the game at 3-3, Flacco was sacked for an 11-yard loss.

It was a dumb call, almost as goofy as Harbaugh challenging that pass play in the right flat to receiver Reggie Wayne midway in the second quarter.

Please, someone take away Harbaugh's red challenge flag. Please.

"Yeah, it started with the first play out of the gates, we made too many mistakes," Flacco said. "We didn't convert first downs and I don't think we put ourselves in very good positions to convert a handful of those, there were some longer situations. We just didn't put it together."

And the Ravens still almost won. That's one positive coming out of Sunday's loss. With the exception of Denver, there is no super team in the AFC. New England was expected to be good, but the Patriots were humbled by Kansas City last Monday night.

So, who else is left? Cincinnati.

Yet, on the other hand, there were some disturbing things about the Ravens loss. The Ravens fumbled twice and lost both. Flacco had one interception. Receiver Torrey Smith was expected to complement veteran receiver Steve Smith, but he has been disappointing, including a drop on the long pass down the right sideline that basically ended the game for the Ravens.

Jacoby Jones? Oh my.

The assumption here is that Harbaugh keeps playing him because he has no one else. But he can't keep waiting for a big play from him as a receiver or returner much longer, because the Ravens are about to enter Game No. 6, and Jones still hasn't delivered.

In fact, his mistakes have been costly.

In a big game like this expectations were high for the Ravens, and they failed. Harbaugh fizzled and so did offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Old problems resurfaced and some new ones continued, which can't happen against contenders.

"I think we're a quality team, quality organization," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. "As a kid growing up, watching the Colts-Ravens was a big deal. We talked earlier, these are one of those AFC mainstays. It's good to get this win though."

The Ravens were hoping to say the same thing.



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