The Ravens have trailed just 14 seconds in the 120 minutes they have played in Baltimore this season, but from this portrayal of apparent superiority only stark realities emerge: a historic collapse in their home opener, a second-half flop on Sunday against the Super Bowl Favorites, two potential wins marred by defensive communication issues and offensive breakdowns and generally bad vibes.
The Ravens never trailed in their 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills, not before kicker Tyler Bass hit a 21-yard field goal through the uprights at the end of time, but at the end of the slopfest drenched in rain from Sunday, week 4 felt a lot like week 2, an idle car crash. Against the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens had squandered a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost in the final minute. Against the Bills, a 17-point first-half lead turned to mush, ultimately wasted by a late fourth-and-goal interception and a failed defensive position.
As the Bills counted the seconds Sunday until Bass could take his kick just yards from the goal line, the Ravens’ implosion manifested itself in another outburst. Cornerback Marcus Peters, who appeared to openly disagree with coach John Harbaugh’s decision to go for a touchdown on the fourth-and-second goal line four minutes earlier, had to be held by passing game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt as he argued with Harbaugh coming off the field.
It was a matchup that only underscored the Ravens’ surprising struggles at home, where they’ve now lost a franchise-record five straight games since last season. An offense that cannot put away a game. A defense that struggles to communicate. A team that should probably be 4-0 but are more like 2-2, with defending champion AFC North Cincinnati Bengals coming next in Baltimore.
“I think it’s very disappointing for us,” said safety Chuck Clark. “We were preaching at half-time, ‘We’ve been in this before and we have to get it over with. So I think we know what we did and what we didn’t do. We have to finish.
Lamar Jackson approached it. Midway through the fourth quarter, the 20-3 lead that the Ravens’ opportunistic offense and suddenly solid defense had created was gone. But on the Ravens’ last practice of the game, their quarterback put them on the verge of another lead.
A 9-yard completion to wide receiver Devin Duvernay moved the Ravens to 1 for the Bills. A failed run play, 3-yard loss by running back JK Dobbins, pushed them back to 4. After a short third down rush by Jackson at Buffalo’s 2, the Ravens kept kicker Justin Tucker on the sidelines. As Harbaugh moved deeper and deeper into the red zone before the snap, Peters followed not far behind, gesturing. (Peters was unavailable for postgame comment, but Harbaugh said they were “on the same page.”)
The Ravens, whose aggressiveness on fourth down and late in the game often backfired last season, have not changed their plans. Two weeks after Miami blocked a crucial fourth down in the fourth quarter, Jackson rolled back to pass.
Duvernay – then the team’s best wide receiver, with Rashod Bateman relegated to the sidelines after a few falls and an apparent lower-body injury suffered in the third quarter – opened up in the corner of the end zone. Jackson didn’t see him initially, only “a big defensive lineman with his hands up,” he later said.
Jackson backpedaled and backpedaled until he finally threw his back foot to Duvernay, still open behind tight end Mark Andrews. But the pass snagged as it flew over 20 meters in the air, teetering in the steady afternoon rain. He arrived a fraction of a second too late. Safety Jordan Poyer beat Duvernay to the ball for his second interception of the game.
“If I had seen it off the bat, it would have been a touchdown,” said Jackson, who finished with 11 carries for 73 yards but struggled to separate a battered Bills secondary, finishing 20 for 29 for 144. yards and a touchdown.
Asked about the Ravens’ soft finish, best summed up by their scoreless second half, he said: “I feel like we just have to execute. I felt like we had chances to keep the controls alive on the pitch, but we just have to execute. We just have to do a better job, and that way we will be successful.
Harbaugh said the decision to go for the touchdown was not about the defense’s ability to stop Bills quarterback Josh Allen and an explosive but inconsistent offense. “I felt like it gave us the best chance of winning the game,” he said. One of the most analytical coaches in the NFL, Harbaugh said he thinks a field goal would encourage the Bills to go fourth on the next drive, giving them “a chance to score. seven again, then you lose the match”. on a touchdown.
Buffalo’s game-winning drive further exposed the cracks that began to appear in Week 2. Needing a stoppage, the Ravens only held the Bills’ lead twice – when left tackle Dion Dawins was called for a false start penalty, and when inside linebacker Patrick Queen dropped running back Devin Singletary for a loss once Buffalo (3-1) was already inside of the territory of the Ravens.
Self-inflicted damage had undermined the Ravens’ strong start on Sunday — reverse passes, misses and interceptions, untimely penalties — and it doomed them late. Buffalo entered the basket zone after cornerback Brandon Stephens was penalized for brutalizing the setter because of what referee Jérôme Boger called “forced contact” with the head and neck.
With 1:50 remaining, the Bills called a first down run for Singletary, who found a relatively light path from the 11-yard line to the end zone. Here, the miscommunications that plagued the Ravens against Miami resurfaced.
Harbaugh said the entire defense was ordered to let the Bills score, which would have given the Ravens time to react. Oweh said the call was to either “remove the ball or let it score”; he went for the forced fumble, having obtained one earlier. But Singletary was tackled 8 yards out, costing the Ravens their final timeout.
After a short run from Allen (19 for 36 for 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception, plus 11 carries for 70 yards and a score), the Bills had another first down and the ball at 1. After two knee- downs, there were just three seconds left, enough time for just one play: Bass’ game-winning kick. The Ravens, heads down, left the field with their second 17-point lead of the season. In their previous 26 seasons, they had won all but three games with such an advantage.
“It’s only week 4,” Jackson said. “We have been in this situation before. I remember we were blown away by the [Cleveland] Browns in 2019 and we started the season the same way. I don’t talk about it too soon. I don’t look at this as if we had a disappointing season. The guys are just coming back healthy now, and I feel like we’re going to peak at the right time.
A month into their season, the Ravens are still looking for something close to full performance. They looked like the world beaters for the stretches on Sunday, their running game buzzing, their passing attack on time, their defense forcing turnovers, their home crowd buzzing.
Their eventual loss was a reminder not just of who they’re missing — key starters like left tackle Ronnie Stanley and outside linebacker Tyus Bowser — but what they’re looking for. They hadn’t hung around until the clock hit zero on Sunday. Yet they had left themselves too little margin for error. Now they should reckon with the consequences. Still.
“Obviously we put ourselves in a great position to win this game,” Andrews said. “It’s a shame it didn’t go the way we wanted. As a team, all you can ask for is to be in those situations and to have that opportunity. That’s what we had today. We didn’t. We’ll be fine.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
TV: chs. 11, 4
Radio: 97.9FM, 101.5FM, 1090AM