By Ben Butanis
Mark Clayton dropped the critical fourth-down pass from Joe Flacco, and the Ravens went on to fall to the New England Patriots, 27-21, in Foxborough on Sunday.
"It was a perfect ball. I dropped it," Clayton said. "I just wasn't able to come up with it, and it cost us the game. (WNST.net)
"It hurts tremendously because you want to win the game and you want the ball in a critical situation. To not be able to come up with it is tough."
There were several questionable calls by the referees -- the overwhelming majority of them in favor of Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Twice, the Ravens stopped Tom Brady and the Patriots on third down, only to have a referee call an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty extend the drive. Haloti Ngata inadvertently hit Brady in the head on one, Terrell Suggs glanced off Brady's knee on the other. (Interestingly enough, there was no penalty thrown against the Patriots on the same play Jared Gaither was hurt. Watch Joe Flacco's knee get hit, late, by the defensive lineman. Granted, Gaither "helps" him in that direction...not unlike how Suggs was "helped" towards Brady.)
Both drives resulted in a Patriots touchdown.
Coach John Harbaugh, who received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of his own, declined to comment on the officiating after the game.
Luckily for us, Ray Lewis spoke up.
"That's embarrassing to our game. It's embarrassing for them to treat one person on a football field different from anybody else. You've got to let the game take care of itself like it just did. But when you call penalties like that, it takes away from the love of the game because you can get a Tom Brady to walk by you and say something like, 'Oh, that's a cheap one.' Wow." (Edward Lee, Baltimore Sun)
Ed Reed wasn't as upset as Lewis, but still managed to comment on the poor officiating.
"It's very frustrating when you're playing your heart out and with just the slightest little touch or push, we'll give someone 15 yards or a first down," said Reed. "To go off what you just said, a couple weeks back, I saw Brett Favre come back and hit a guy low. You're saying guys can't hit a quarterback low, but they can come do it to us? Hold up, I thought this was football." (Albert Breer, SportingNews.com)
Now, let's get something straight.
Even with the officiating, the Ravens were still in position to win. Had Clayton caught Flacco's pass, the Ravens would have the ball within five yards of New England's goal line with time to score -- and a timeout. And had Clayton caught the touchdown pass (which he should have) a few plays before, the drop never happens.
While he is receiving all the criticism, Clayton isn't the only one to blame for the loss.
Cam Cameron dialed up 49 (!) pass plays. Ray Rice had a great game -- 11 rushes for 103 yards along with five catches for 49 yards. With those numbers, why didn't he see the ball more? On a fourth and short, why didn't the 6-foot, 260 pound wrecking ball Le'Ron McClain get a carry?
Joe Flacco threw his first interception in the red zone all season. And Chris Carr, who was signed because of his ability to return the football, fumbled on the opening kickoff.
The Ravens (3-1) square off against a Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) team that is a freak play away from being undefeated in a battle for first place in the AFC North this Sunday.
Check back later in the week for key match-ups in this Sunday's game.
Notes: Ravens LB Brendan Ayanbadejo tore his left quad and will be placed on IR for the rest of the season...the Ravens are expected to sign LB Prescott Burgess from the Patriots' practice squad to replace Ayanbadejo...LT Jared Gaither is back in Baltimore after leaving on a stretcher during the game ...the 6'9'' Gaither was too large for the MRI machine in Foxborough...he has movement in all extremities and expected to make a complete recovery...Dwan Edwards' recovered fumble (caused by Terrell Suggs) in the endzone was the first of his career...Former Patriots S Rodney Harrison told Tom Brady to "take off the skirt and toughen up" on NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast...Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh is reportedly interested in buying the St. Louis Rams.