The reeling Ravens have enough problems this season, but they weren’t helped by a critical call that derailed their opening drive in a 26-18 loss to Arizona on Monday night that sent the Ravens to 1-6 for the season.
On their opening possession, the Ravens marched to the Cardinals 13-yard line in five plays. On first-and-10 from the 13, backup guard John Urschel caught a screen pass for six yards, putting the Ravens inside the Cardinals 10. But the play was brought back, with Urschel flagged for an illegal formation because he was not an eligible receiver.
Replays indicated that as Urschel ran onto the field, he looked right at referee Ronald Torbert and ran his two hands up and down in front of him – a clear signal that he was reporting as eligible. Joe Flacco also appeared to point at Urschel and say something to Torbert.
Harbaugh was irate after the flag was thrown. After the game, a miffed Harbaugh said the official told him that he never saw Urschel’s signal.
“John did everything he was supposed to do in that situation, just as he’s coached.” Harbaugh said. “Joe (Flacco) looked at it. He saw it. I saw it. Then there was an announcement. Couldn’t hear what the announcement was, you never can. … He did exactly what he’s coached to do and what he’s instructed to do and it was a legal formation.”
The subject of players reporting as eligible receivers has been a touchy subject in Baltimore ever since the playoff loss at New England last year, when the Patriots confused the Ravens with formations that left the Ravens covering ineligible receivers while letting players who had declared eligible run free.
The penalty on Urschel stalled what had been the Ravens best game-opening drive of the season. Prior to Monday night, they were one of two teams that had not scored on an opening drive all year, with their longest opening drive topping out at 19 yards.
After the penalty on Urschel, instead of facing 2nd-and-4 from the Cardinals 7, the Ravens were backed up to face 1st-and-15 from the 18. The Ravens ultimately got a 44-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, but the missed chance at an early touchdown loomed large in yet another Ravens loss that was decided by one possession.
The Ravens fell to 1-6, with all six losses decided by eight points or less.