By Jeff Zrebiec
The Baltimore Sun
8:55 PM CST, November 17, 2013
After all that happened during the game’s first 59 minutes — the near two-hour weather delay, the conditions that were the worst that most of them had ever played in, the swings of momentum — the Ravens had the ball at the Chicago Bears’ 5-yard line with a chance to win the game.
“Everybody wants to get seven points there, and the freaking game is over,” Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda said.
Rendered ineffective all season, the Ravens’ running game was finally picking up chunks of yards. Mistake-prone over the first three quarters, quarterback Joe Flacco was taking care of the ball and finding open receivers. The Ravens had two timeouts left, 52 seconds to work with and only a three-point deficit. A touchdown and they were likely back to .500 and heading home for three consecutive games feeling good about their playoff positioning.
However, in a season of close calls and near misses, the Ravens suffered their most damaging loss yet. After settling for a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation, the Ravens watched Robbie Gould connect for a 38-yard field goal in overtime to push the Bears to a 23-20 victory before 62,367 at sloppy and windy Soldier Field in a game delayed one hour, 53 minutes in the first quarter because of inclement weather.
Gould’s kick ended a game that lasted five hours and 16 minutes and could very well serve as a microcosm of the Ravens’ disappointing season. They made the plays to put themselves in position to win the game, only to fail to finish it at the end, agonizingly finishing two yards short of the go-ahead touchdown in regulation.
The Ravens (4-6) have now lost four games by three points or less, and are just 1-5 on the road this season.
“We just got to learn how to finish,” fullback Vonta Leach said. “We have to find a way to get that ball in the end zone.”
The Ravens didn’t and after being stopped near midfield on the first possession of overtime, the Bears drove 60 yards on seven plays before Gould tucked the kick inside the right upright. The big play on the Bears’ game-winning drive came on Josh McCown’s 43-yard completion to tight end Martellus Bennett who reached over Lardarius Webb to make the play. There was really nothing the smaller Webb could do on the play, though there was plenty the Ravens could have done to avoid another loss.
Flacco threw two interceptions, including one that was returned by defensive end David Bass for a 24-yard touchdown, and now has a career-high 13 on the season. After starting strong, the Ravens scored on only one of their final six possessions and even that was a missed opportunity because they settled for Justin Tucker’s game-tying 21-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation. The defense also played well at times, but allowed McCown, who started in place of an injured Jay Cutler, to drive the Bears down the field for points on two of their final three drives.
“It was a difficult loss,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who watched his team blow leads of 10-0 and 17-10. “Obviously, there was a lot of anguish after a game like that.”
With the loss, the Ravens missed out on an opportunity to pull even with the New York Jets for the sixth and final playoff spot. The Jets, who were embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills to fall to 5-5, visit M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday. The Ravens also fell to 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North. The Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, leaving the Ravens, Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers all in a second-place tie.
The Ravens now start a stretch of three straight games with no margin of error in their bid to make the playoffs a sixth straight year.
“We have to win the next three at home. We have to,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
To their credit, the Ravens didn’t use the one hour, 53-minute delay or the sloppy field or the unrelenting wind as an excuse. At the time of the stoppage, which sent fans scurrying to the exits, the Ravens had a 10-0 lead after Tucker had just converted a 52-yard field goal.
They had established their running game with Rice gaining 47 yards on one carry and then finished the drive the 1-yard touchdown.
The offense was still able to move the ball when play resumed after the delay but mistakes halted drives and got the Bears back in the game.
“You come out and put 10 quick ones up and you feel like you’re going pretty good, you feel like you’re able to do what we wanted to do against them and you have the delay,” said Flacco, who finished 17-of-32 for 162 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. “You come out in the second half and the weather was just crazy. We kind of got out of rhythm. It’s frustrating because I felt like we had the ability to really let it go today and explode on offense and we just didn’t do it.”
Flacco helped make up for the interception that Bass, who shrugged off a Rice block and stayed on his feet to pick the ball off, returned 24 yards for the interception. Flacco rebounded to lead a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that he ended by hitting Torrey Smith for a 5-yard touchdown.
However, another Flacco pick on the Ravens’ next possession, helped put the Bears in position for Gould to kick a 46-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. That cut the Ravens’ lead to 17-13.
The score stayed that way until the 10:33 mark of the fourth quarter when McCown hit Matt Forte for a 14-yard touchdown pass. McCown didn’t attempt a pass in the third quarter, largely because of the windy conditions, but on the scoring drive, he completed five of his six attempts as the Ravens’ pass rush was nowhere to be seen.
After both teams traded punts, the Ravens had the ball back at their own 16 with 4:48 to go. A horse-collar penalty on Zack Bowman got them a drive-starting first down. Rice carried the next two plays for 19 yards. Then, on fourth-and-4 from the Bears’ 44, tight end Dallas Clark made a one-handed catch and took it for 14 yards.
An 11-yard completion to Deonte Thompson, and an 11-yard run and the Ravens were in business at the Bears’ 5. However, Rice took the next carry for three yards, and then on second down, he was dropped for a loss of one. Flacco, who picked up a bad snap by center Gino Gradkowski, then had to throw the ball out of the end zone on third down and settle for a Tucker field goal.
“Obviously, the big picture is we didn’t get in,” Yanda said. “So no matter what they did and what we did, we didn’t get in. That’s the tough part. We all wanted to get in right there.”
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