As Matt Gay’s 53-yard field goal attempt sailed toward the uprights, several Baltimore Ravens defensive players dropped to the ground. They didn’t need to look behind them, and they certainly didn’t want to look in front of them, where a well-earned Indianapolis Colts celebration had already begun.
Gay hadn’t missed all day. In fact, just about every one of his kicks was right down the middle. This one was exactly the same. His NFL record fourth field goal from 50-plus yards brought an end to a wet and wild afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Colts prevailed 22-19 at the 1:09 mark of overtime, and should have started some Ravens soul searching.
Matt Gay powers Colts to overtime win vs. Ravens
For all of Gay’s heroics, which included a game-tying 53-yard field goal with just under a minute to play in regulation, this was a game the Ravens could have and should have won. Yet, for much of a rainy Sunday in Baltimore, the Ravens were their own worst enemy, and just about everybody had a hand in it, including their veteran head coach and $260 million quarterback.
“At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have even been in that position to lose on a game-winning field goal,” said Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton, who was the best player on the field for his team with three sacks, nine tackles, a forced fumble and pass deflection.
Twice in overtime, the Ravens took over possession near midfield and were two first downs away from giving Justin Tucker a chance to win the game. They punted on the first one and were stopped on fourth-and-3 on the second. Twice late in regulation, Baltimore had a chance to put Indianapolis away. The best it could do was get Tucker a 61-yard field goal attempt in the waning seconds. It fell a few yards short.
Running back Kenyan Drake bobbled away the Ravens’ early momentum in the first quarter and took potential points off the board with a fumble just outside the red zone. Quarterback Lamar Jackson gift-wrapped the Colts three points with an unforced fumble in the second quarter. Jeremiah Moon and Brandon Stephens failed to pick up a fumble just before halftime that could have resulted in points for the home team. There was a grounded snap on one third down and a blown-up running play on another.
Then, the Ravens botched the final couple of minutes of regulation, which started when head coach John Harbaugh and his staff were apparently unable to communicate to the kick return team that it shouldn’t fair catch Rigoberto Sanchez’s free kick. Rookie Zay Flowers didn’t get the message and called for a fair catch with 2:03 remaining, which kept the two-minute warning in place following Baltimore’s first offensive play and essentially gave the Colts a free timeout.
Instead of running down most, if not all of the time — like they did last week in Cincinnati — the Ravens committed a block in the back penalty on third down, which again stopped the clock. The Colts took over at their own 38 with plenty of time to get in position for a game-tying field goal.
“We were going to fair catch that ball because it was 1:58 (left), and that was before the two-minute warning,” Harbaugh said. “After the kick return team was out there on the field, (the officials) pumped (the clock) up over two minutes, and we were unable to communicate to him. We were trying, but we couldn’t communicate to (Flowers). They were winding it. That was unfortunate.”
The Ravens had two timeouts left, and if Harbaugh and his staff weren’t sure whether the return team had gotten the no fair catch message, it probably would have been a good time to use one. If Baltimore had started the possession after the two-minute warning, it could have just run the ball three consecutive times, forced Indianapolis to blow its last timeout, and then punted the ball away with less than a minute to play. Instead, the Colts got the ball with 1:41 remaining.
Harbaugh then made another debatable decision on fourth down of the Ravens’ second possession of overtime. They had a fourth-and-3 from the Colts’ 47-yard line after a bad drop by tight end Isaiah Likely would have resulted in a first down. Instead of punting the ball and trying to pin the Colts and their backup quarterback, Gardner Minshew, deep, Harbaugh kept his offense on the field. Jackson’s pass to Flowers fell incomplete and the Ravens’ call for defensive pass interference fell on deaf ears.
After four Zack Moss runs and another Gay field goal, the Ravens were officially done. The momentum from their Week 2 victory over the Bengals went down the drain, just like most of the rain that fell in Baltimore over the weekend. They’re now 2-1 heading into back-to-back road AFC North matchups against the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“It’s just about finishing. It was right there to be had,” said tight end Mark Andrews. “It was one of those games that you look back on at the end of the year, and you thought it made you better.”
— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2023
Or it will be one of those games where the Ravens look back on in December when they’re fighting for a playoff berth or a home postseason game, and lament how they let it get away.
“We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away, especially when our defense did a great job at stopping those guys,” said Jackson, who finished 22-of-31 for 202 yards and ran 14 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. “Great field position (and) we didn’t move the ball at all. That ticked me off. It ticked all of us (off). We like to finish the job. The defense did great today. They always do great, but especially today, giving us that opportunity to finish the game … and we didn’t.”
Jackson had his moments, but he completed just 1 of 5 pass attempts in overtime for 7 yards. At a time when Gus Edwards was out with a concussion and the Ravens’ backfield options consisted of Drake and Melvin Gordon, Jackson was also unable to produce any plays with his legs after hurting the Colts on the ground for much of regulation.
The Ravens had given Jackson the ball on the Colts’ 48 after the defense forced a three-and-out to start overtime and Devin Duvernay returned the punt 31 yards. But Baltimore registered a three-and-out of its own, which culminated when Jackson threw behind Flowers on third down.
“Some of them were just mishaps, a part of the game,” said Jackson. “I try not to miss those passes. Great coverage, sometimes, that’s all.”
Neither Jackson nor Harbaugh were willing to comment on the non-defensive pass interference call on the Ravens’ final possession of overtime. There certainly was contact, but the Ravens had to leave M&T Bank Stadium Sunday knowing they had no right to point fingers at the officials after the way they played, and after the opportunities they squandered.
It felt like the Ravens would turn the game into a rout after they took their opening possession 80 yards on 12 plays and scored on Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown run. When the defense forced another punt, they were again on the move. Edwards ran for 9 yards. Jackson connected with Andrews for 20. Jackson then found Drake underneath and the veteran broke some tackles but was stripped of the ball by cornerback Julius Brents, a rookie playing in his first career game.
Welcome to the league, JuJu!
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 24, 2023
“Obviously, I take pride in that myself, especially being a back in this league,” said Drake, who was signed to the team’s practice squad with Justice Hill unavailable for the game because of a toe injury. “When you get to touch the ball, it’s a privilege in any given situation no matter how far you go. No matter the situation, you have to take care of the ball. We had two turnovers today, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Ravens again appeared to be on the verge of taking control when Jackson finalized another long drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to give Baltimore a 14-13 lead in the final seconds of the third quarter. Yet on the very first play after the kickoff, the defense gave up a 24-yard run to Moss.
“There’s no excuse for what we put out on the field today,” said Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen. “They had too many rush yards (and) too many big plays that we didn’t capitalize on — just simply not doing our job. I gave up a touchdown. If I don’t give up that touchdown, we win. So, it starts with us. It starts with me and (Roquan Smith) in the middle, taking over. There are too many big plays that we want back. And that’s the thing about the league — you can’t have plays that you want to get back. So, in order for us to be the team that we want to be, we’ve just got to (get stops) when we’re supposed to.”
Queen was outdueled for a 17-yard touchdown catch by Moss in the second quarter. The Ravens’ run defense also struggled, allowing 139 rushing yards. Still, this was a game where Baltimore’s defense did enough to win. It even forced a safety as Minshew stepped out of the back of the end zone to give the Ravens a 19-16 lead with just over two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
That should have been enough. The Ravens celebrated on the sideline like they thought it would be. Because of more mistakes and missed opportunities, it wasn’t.
“What is there to talk about? We took a loss,” said Ravens defensive lineman Justin Madubuike. “We have to play better both offensively and defensively. For them to come into our house and beat us, that just shouldn’t happen. There were so many mistakes that we made. We just have to clean that stuff up.”
(Photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)