The Baltimore Ravens endured a lot over the course of the 2014 season -- everything from the Ray Rice fiasco off the field to injuries on the field -- and none of that stopped the Ravens from making the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Ravens even defeated their number one enemy in the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card round on the road as well. However, none of that matters now as the Ravens season with a loss to the #1 seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots, 35-31 in the AFC divisional round.
“I’m very proud of our guys," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh noted via Baltimoreravens.com. "Not just in this game, but I think in this season, you saw the same thing our guys have been doing all year as far as overcoming adversity.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco put up a great fight with four touchdown passes that helped the Ravens keep the lead by 14 points on two different occasions. However, some will say those four touchdown passes will be clouded over the fact that Flacco threw a crucial interception near the very end of the game, which was intended for Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.
"We were on a good matchup even though they were cheating to his side a little bit," Flacco noted of the interception via Baltimoreravens.com. "I took my shot. It just didn't work out."
There will be questions as to whether or not the Ravens should have run the ball more toward the closing minutes of the game on their second-to-last possession. Ravens running back Justin Forsett had a very good game rushing for 129 yards on 24 carries.
At the end of the day, nobody on offense should be getting the blame for the loss on the road to the Patriots. All of the blame should be intended for the Ravens' defense, which allowed 21 points in the second half. Ravens outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil failed to record a sack in the game against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and the entire defense suffered the consequences for it.
It did not help that cornerbacks such as Lardarius Webb and Rashaan Melvin were leaving at least five-yard cushions to opposing wide receivers and running backs lined up against them through part of the game. When a defense is not able to get pressure to Brady and cornerbacks leave cushions on the field, Brady will pick any defense apart.
"He’s a pretty good quarterback," Suggs noted via Baltimoreravens.com. "He sat in there and made the plays they needed him to make.”
A lot was made of the fact before the game that the Ravens did not have the veteran experience they used to have in the past with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed not available for the Ravens anymore against quality quarterbacks such Brady, for example. The absence of Lewis and Reed should not be an excuse as to why the Ravens lost this game. The Ravens just did not execute on defense the way they should have.
The Ravens had an excellent season considering the circumstances surrounding the team, and now they will have to focus on the 2015 season where they should be improved.