BALTIMORE -- Realistically, what could the Ravens expect?
By the time the Ravens went to overtime against the Browns on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, they were missing their top receiver, their top draft pick who was expected to be a top receiver, their starting tight end and their top two running backs. On defense, the Ravens were missing both their Pro Bowl pass rushers, their starting defensive end as well as three cornerbacks. They were so thin in the secondary that rookie project Tray Walker was playing nickel back, his first defensive snaps all season.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Ravens couldn’t manage 10 yards for a touchdown at the end of regulation, couldn’t move the ball in overtime, and couldn’t stop the Browns?
The result was a gut-wrenching 33-30 loss that likely dooms the Ravens to also-ran status this season, sending them to 1-4 for the first time in franchise history with two home divisional losses before the leaves have changed.
Every NFL team has injuries, but the rash of injuries has hit the Ravens especially hard. On offense, the Ravens were already playing without top receiver Steve Smith (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf), not to mention first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman, who has been out all season. To compensate especially for Smith’s absence, the Ravens on Sunday lean heavily on running back Justin Forsett (21-121 rushing, 4-49 receiving).
That plan worked very well in the second half – until Forsett went down after getting his ankle rolled into after a 32-yard gain to the Browns 10-yard line in the final two minutes. Still, down 30-27, the Ravens only needed to gain 10 yards to secure the win.
But the shorthanded offense couldn’t do it. Rookie running back Buck Allen – the only healthy back left after Forsett’s injury sinece Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) was a game-day inactive with a foot injury – carried twice or a total of 5 yards. On third-and-goal, Joe Flacco threw incomplete for Kamar Aiken, and the Ravens settled for a field goal to force overtime.
In overtime, the Ravens offense got the ball first and went nowhere. Allen ran for no gain, and two incompletions ended the Ravens possession.
But that only put the onus on the Ravens shorthanded defense.
Having already lost Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs for the season to a torn Achilles earlier this year, the Ravens lost his pass-rushing counterpart, Elvis Dumervil, early on Sunday with a groin injury. He did not play after halftime.
Meanwhile, in the secondary, the Ravens lost backup corner Will Davis to a knee injury and then starter Lardarius Webb to a thigh injury. The Ravens announced Webb was probable to return, but he did not play again. With backup Rashaan Melvin a gameday inactive, that left Kyle Arrington as a starter – until he was shaken up on the Browns’ series on overtime.
Second-year safety Terrence Brooks saw some time at nickel back, but he also was shaken up at one point, putting Walker on the field in crunch time. Before Sunday, Walker had not played a defensive snap all season and was not even active the past two weeks.
So maybe it should come as no surprise that Browns quarterback Josh McCown threw for 457 yards – a Browns franchise record and the third-most ever allowed by the Ravens. Tight end Gary Barnidge did the most damage, with eight catches for 139 yards.
“We didn’t cover the way we needed to,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Whether it was deep, whether it was intermediate, or whether it was short. We didn’t get the job done in coverage.”
Harbaugh and others did not want to use the injuries as any excuse.
“Whoever is out there has to play well,” he said .”Whoever is out there has to get the job done. That’s what has to happen.”
But it didn’t happen Sunday, and that’s why the battered, bruised, stunned Ravens are looking at their worst five-game record in franchise history.
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