Once More, Ravens Let a Close One Slip Away
By Ken Denlinger
BALTIMORE, Nov. 23 Baltimore Ravens Coach Ted Marchibroda occasionally gets angry enough at his team to offer the sort of blunt criticism he usually keeps private. Such a time was after the Ravens lost to the Arizona Cardinals today, 16-13, on a 43-yard field goal by Joe Nedney (pictured) at game's end that eliminated all but the Ravens' most remote chance of making the playoffs.
"We don't play smart football," Marchibroda said.
These are some of the things that upset Marchibroda: The Cardinals (3-9) won their first road game of the season, rookie quarterback Jake Plummer (19 for 34, 218 yards passing) won the first game he has started and finished, and Arizona Coach Vince Tobin won his first game against an AFC team in seven tries.
"I'm embarrassed," Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "I've got to explain to ... friends who call and ask what's wrong."
What will he tell them?
"I have no clue."
In not winning for the seventh time in their past eight games, the Ravens lost a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Still, they were in fine position to force their second overtime in as many weeks after first tying the score at 13-13 on Matt Stover's 34-yard field goal with 34 seconds left, then pinning the Cardinals on their 20 on the ensuing kickoff.
Baltimore's defensive backfield was hurt by injuries to starters Eugene Daniel and Rondell Jones and to Kim Herring. Usually, the three would have been playing on the critical first-down play from Arizona's 42 with 15 seconds left.
Cardinals wide receiver Rob Moore seemed to slip easily behind DeRon Jenkins and gather in Plummer's pass for a 27-yard gain. But Jenkins said he did manage to tip the pass.
That left the Cardinals at Baltimore's 31 with seven seconds left. Plummer then threw a six-yard pass to wideout Anthony Edwards, and the Cardinals called time after linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Stevon Moore made the tackle with three seconds left.
Had Lewis and Moore allowed Edwards another step or so before tackling him, the clock would have wound down and denied Nedney his crack at the game-winner. The same situation turned in the Ravens' favor at the end of the first half, when Stover kicked a 46-yarder that lifted Baltimore to a 3-3 tie.
Marchibroda said a player can call time whenever he chooses, even without being tackled. After reading the rule book, a Ravens official was uncertain about that — and no one from the NFL was immediately available to comment.
The Ravens' special teams started breaking down early, when Kevin Williams returned the first punt 33 yards and the Cardinals used that to gain a 3-0 lead on Nedney's 22-yard field goal. In all, Williams had 110 yards on six returns, and 60 yards on two kickoffs. Special-teams penalties also cost the Ravens field position.
That gave Baltimore a 10-6 lead. The offense's inability to move the ball after an interception by Moore and a 23-yard punt return by Williams set the Cardinals up for the touchdown that enabled them to regain the lead. Their drive started on Baltimore's 31. It took 10 plays and ended with Plummer passing to wide receiver Frank Sanders just inside the end zone from the 4 on fourth down.
"I just felt it would be a shot in the arm for our football team," Tobin said of choosing not to kick a field goal with 8 minutes 34 seconds still left.
Talk in Baltimore's locker room soon turned to next season — and Marchibroda said: "There's going to have to be some changes. No question."
Moore mentioned a troubling recent pattern.
"We've talked about making the playoffs all the time," he said. "Good teams win these games."
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