Ravens Fall To 1-1 After Chaotic Loss To Eagles
By Joe Platania
(Look for Ravens Report's extensive "Leftovers," our usual postgame notebook, Monday morning.)
Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh lived out author Thomas Wolfe's vision Sunday in Philadelphia, and they're none too pleased about it.
Wolfe coined the phrase "you can't go home again," and the New Jersey-bred Flacco, as well as ex-Philadelphia Eagles assistant Harbaugh, learned that as the Ravens lost a tough, physical game at Lincoln Financial Field, 24-23.
The loss is especially vexing considering the Ravens' Week Two road problems during previous years. It is the team's third straight loss in that spot (2-6 lifetime), and it came to a team that committed four turnovers -- nine during two weeks -- and yet has managed to win both games.
It was only the Ravens' second loss during 60 games since 2000 when they won the turnover battle by at least two, the other defeat coming in New England two years ago.
The Eagles -- 2-0 for the first time in eight years after their first home-opener win since 2008 -- controlled the time of possession (more than 34 minutes) and ground out 486 yards of total offense to win a game that included plenty of scuffles and post-whistle altercations. At one point, Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks was seen on the field yelling at several of the Eagles.
There were also injuries to key players such as strong safety Bernard Pollard (rib contusion) -- which is not considered serious -- and, late during the game, linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder).
"Obviously, a tough football game," Harbaugh said. "The Eagles competed right down to the end. They found a way to win the game and made plays. And I like the way our guys competed.
"It was a chaotic football game out there and it did not go our way."
Although it may be tough to win on the road in the NFL, the Ravens' 4-4 away mark last year ended up costing them the top AFC playoff seed. The team promised Week Two would be different this year, especially because the Ravens (1-1 for a third straight year) had won six of their last seven games against NFC teams.
The Eagles took the lead for good when quarterback Michael Vick (23-for-32, 371 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, two sacks, 94.7 rating; 10 rushes for 34) capped an 80-yard, 10-play drive by bulling into the end zone over left guard to give his team a one-point advantage with 1:55 left during the game. The Ravens' defense didn't spy Vick as he directed the drive behind his team's only five healthy offensive linemen.
Flacco (22-for-42 for 232 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 66.8 rating), who had an inaccurate second half (9-for-26), then had to drive his team into field-goal range with two timeouts remaining. After a first down, the Eagles were called for illegal contact on the sidelines at the Ravens' 38-yard line.
But Flacco, facing a fourth-and-2 with 54 seconds left at the 46, hurried a pass into the flat, which was too high for a blanketed Ray Rice. The Eagles got the ball back on downs and ran out the clock.
"All losses are pretty painful," Flacco said. "It was a hard-fought game all day, and it was pretty painful. [The Eagles] did a good job all day in putting people in the box and putting pressure on our receivers.
"It was a pretty physical game against a physical team. I got my ribs rolled up on early in the second half. ... I might sound a little bit like a baby, but there was a lot of holding and grabbing going on out there."
The Ravens looked to be in control late during the third quarter after safety Ed Reed caught a deflected pass for his 59th career interception. Following that, wideout Torrey Smith got past cornerback Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie -- who had two interceptions in Week One -- for an over-the-shoulder catch at the Eagles' 24.
A holding penalty on center Matt Birk nearly killed the drive, but Flacco was roughed on a third-and-18 pass, giving the visitors a first down at the 16.
DeMeco Ryans then sacked Flacco. The ex-Houston Texan got past Rice's block, but Justin Tucker's 51-yard field goal with 11:28 left put the Ravens in front, 20-17.
The Eagles could take some solace, because their defense had allowed just two third-down conversions last week and held the Ravens to one during their first nine opportunities.
But midway through the fourth quarter, Rice (99 yards on 16 carries; 53 yards on six catches) converted two straight third-down plays, including a gain of 36 yards on a short pass against a blitz that put the ball on the Eagles' 23.
But Jacoby Jones was flagged for offensive pass interference on a third-and-12 toss into the end zone, which the Ravens receiver caught for what appeared to be a touchdown. The score was nullified, and the ensuing third-and-22 play was unsuccessful, setting up Tucker's 48-yard field goal, which gave the Ravens a six-point lead at the 4:43 mark.
EAGLES RALLY TO TIE
Without as much of a no-huddle presence as last week, the Ravens ran the ball just 10 times during the first half. But that lack of balance didn't seem as much of a concern as it would have during past years, because of the offense's anticipated pass-oriented explosion.
With the Ravens taking the second-half kickoff with a 17-7 lead, they looked to continue the momentum they carried over from the first half, when they forced three Philadelphia turnovers and wiped out the hosts' first-quarter domination.
The Eagles were facing a team with more playmakers than Cleveland threw at them last week, and their fans booed them off the field at halftime. The Eagles had allowed 179 first-half yards, roughly 30 fewer than the Browns gained on them all last week.
The Ravens -- who got seven points from the early turnovers -- did drive out to near the midfield stripe to open the third quarter, but Ryans picked off a third-and-2 pass intended for tight end Dennis Pitta (65 yards, eight catches). It was the first of three possessions that netted Baltimore a turnover, no first downs and three punts.
Upon getting the ball back, Vick soon faced a crucial third-and-6, but threw to the sidelines and found Jackson (114 yards, seven catches) behind Cary Williams for a first down at the 30. Running back LeSean McCoy (81 yards, 25 rushes, TD) then burst up the middle for 9 more yards.
After getting the ball back, Vick soon faced a crucial third-and-6, but he completed a sideline pass to DeSean Jackson (seven catches, 114 yards) for a first down at the Ravens' 30. Running back LeSean McCoy (25 rushes for 81 yards and a touchdown) then burst up the middle for 9 more yards.
Two plays later, Vick rolled to his left and hit Jeremy Maclin, who was alone in the end zone, for his first catch of the day. The touchdown cut the Ravens' lead to three points. Williams thought he had safety help behind him, but there was none to be found.
It was the Eagles' second touchdown off a Ravens turnover, and when Flacco's three straight incompletions resulted in a three-and-out, Philadelphia had re-established its early momentum.
Vick found tight end Brent Celek (157 yards, eight catches) for 23 yards in the right flat; the 255-pounder spectacularly hurdled Reed during his run. On third-and-7, rookie Damaris Johnson beat Jimmy Smith to the sideline and got a first down at the Ravens' 27. Vick then kept the ball himself around right end -- it appeared to be a busted play -- and advanced to the 14.
On third-and-7, Vick dove for the first-down line and was marked a half-yard short, and head coach Andy Reid challenged the play. But even though Vick looked as if he got closer than the spot the team was given, Alex Henery's 23-yard field goal tied the game.
During this seesaw contest, the third quarter looked a lot like the first, thanks to the Eagles' ball-control offense and methodical execution.
VICK TAKES HITS,
MAKES RAVENS PAY
Vick, under scrutiny all week for his spotty performance in Week One at Cleveland, appeared more fresh and decisive after a game during which he got hit 16 times and threw four interceptions.
In fact, Vick was hit five times during the Eagles' first two series. That included his first two pass attempts by Philadephia native Jameel McClain and new outside linebacker starter Courtney Upshaw, in for the injured Paul Kruger (back). But the ensuing passes to Celek and Jackson gained 40 yards despite the contact.
On third-and-10 from the Ravens' 40, Vick got much better protection and hooked up with veteran wideout Jason Avant, who had gotten past Reed, for 16 yards to the 24. Celek followed that up with a 5-yard reception, and it appeared the Eagles' offense had found a good rhythm.
But for some reason, Philadelphia started to outsmart itself by putting the ball in the hands of its less-than-heralded ball carriers.
Johnson ran a reverse from the backfield and tight end Clay Harbor floated into the end zone wide open to ostensibly catch a 13-yard touchdown pass. But the problem with the latter play was that the left-handed Vick was rolling to his right, where he is usually less effective.
As a result, his throw to Harbor was underthrown and safety Bernard Pollard -- one of eight defenders that dropped back into coverage -- made a diving interception in the end zone to stop the drive. But the Ravens returned the favor.
During Baltimore's second play from scrimmage, a reconfigured offensive line, which had played well during the Week One win against Cincinnati -- committing none of the team's six penalties -- broke down. Philadelphia defensive end Trent Cole, part of a rush tandem that combined for 29 sacks last year, beat Baltimore left tackle Michael Oher around the edge.
Cole stripped the ball from Flacco and teammate Cullen Jenkins recovered at the Ravens' 20. The Eagles were again set up in prime scoring position, but they encountered more resistance this time.
A holding call against left tackle King Dunlap -- in for the injured Jason Peters, out for the year with an Achilles tendon injury -- set the hosts back before Celek got free on a crossing route to the Ravens' 6. Despite Haloti Ngata's post-pass hit on Vick, the Eagles had a fourth-and-1 and called a timeout to deliberate a decision.
Reid, under considerable public pressure to make the playoffs this year, took a few minutes to ponder what to do. Vick, who has admitted that he is pressing to live up to his own expectations as well as save Reid's job, handed the ball to McCoy, who slammed over the right side to pick up the first down at the Ravens' 4.
Two plays later, the Ravens' aggressive tendencies got the better of them, as Reed was called for a blow to Vick's head as the quarterback tried an end-zone pass, bringing up a first-and-goal at the 2. McCoy -- author of a team-record and league-high 17 rushing touchdowns last year -- then took a draw handoff for the seven points the Eagles probably thought they should have had on their first drive.
To that point, the first quarter was Philadelphia's. It had run 15 of the game's first 17 offensive plays and held the ball for all but 40 seconds of the game's first nine minutes and 20 seconds.
But the Ravens' no-huddle offense helped them swing the momentum.
BACK IN THE GAME...
Flacco was helped by Deonte Thompson's 49-yard kick return to the Ravens' 42, as he gambled on running out of the end zone. But it seemed to give the Ravens the lift they needed.
Ed Dickson hauled in a 23-yard pass to the Eagles' 35 before Rice ripped off a pair of 6-yard runs up the middle. Pitta then got free on the right side for an 8-yard catch.
Rice took a second-and-2 handoff for 4 yards to the 12 and Anquan Boldin ran a dig route from left to right and got to the Eagles' 5-yard line. A shoving match ensued as the aggressive Eagle defense continued to try to pry the ball loose.
The Eagles were even more upset after fullback Vonta Leach took a handoff, bounced off a tackler and romped into the end zone from 5yards out to tie the game, 7-7. Right guard Marshal Yanda pushed Jenkins 5 yards into the end zone -- 10 total yards past the line of scrimmage -- during the play.
After an exchange of possessions, the Eagles were once again on the move and had the ball inside the Ravens' red zone. But running back Bryce Brown fumbled on third-and-1 and linebacker Albert McClellan pounced on it.
Rice took a second-and-2 handoff for four yards to the 12 and Anquan Boldin ran a dig route from left to right and got to the Eagles' 5-yard line.
Already with a pickoff to his credit, Pollard then seemed to take over the game before leaving with his injury, hammering Celek after a 20-yard catch, then stunting inside with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to sack Vick. The Ravens are among the most aggressive secondary blitzing teams in the league, sending at least one defensive back on one of every five blitzes.
Vick, who has played just one full season because of injuries caused by his reckless style, had the break between the first and second quarters -- not to mention a Ravens possession -- to recover from the sack.
But the Ravens changed tactics with their "sugar huddle," in which the players merely stand around the ball for a few moments before snapping into their alignment. On third-and-4 from the 43, the Eagles were able to get substitutions on the field, and an ensuing six-man blitz foiled a flat pass to Rice, ostensibly ending the drive.
But the Ravens decided to get bold with the punt team, sending former Eagles safety Sean Considine through the line on a fake. But he stumbled over the feet of teammate James Ihedigbo and fell short of the first down, giving the Eagles the ball on the Baltimore 45.
Jackson, engaging in verbal and physical battles with Williams during the drive, grabbed Vick's third-and-4 rollout pass for a first down at the 29 against a Ravens blitz.
Two McCoy runs got the Eagles to the Ravens' 20, but the Eagles overthought the situation for a second time during the half. Vick relied on the little-known Bryce Brown on third-and-1. The handoff was hardly smooth, and linebacker Albert McClellan -- who had registered just two tackles last week but got six on Sunday -- pounced upon Brown's fumble.
Rice then took over by following a good pull block from rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele, cutting back twice and running 43 yards to the Eagles' 27.
Receiver Tandon Doss followed by grabbing his first NFL catch before Flacco's well-placed sideline throw to Jones resulted in a 21-yard go-ahead touchdown, his first as a Raven.
The Ravens' defense proceeded to rise up and force an Eagles punt before the end of the half. Tucker ended the second quarter with a Ravens' record-tying 56-yard field goal, which gave Baltimore a 17-7 halftime lead.
At that point, Flacco and Harbaugh looked like homecoming kings. But, slowly but surely, the Eagles reduced them to junior-varsity status.
Posted Sept. 16, 2012