Was this it for head coach Tom Cable? [via www.nflgridirongab.com]
Well, the back story was pretty well-written going in. Everyone knew what was at stake for both teams no matter how big or how small. The Baltimore Ravens (8-7) needed a win to finish above. 500 and to, more importantly, get into the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders (5-10) were just playing for the best record since the Super Bowl year of the 2002 season. It was that simple for both teams.
Entering as heavy underdogs, this was a familiar situation for the Raiders. As heavy underdogs, the team had beaten, , and . Would the Ravens be added to the list?
Chaz Schilens was huge for both Charlie Frye and JaMarcus Russell today. [via a.espncdn.com]
First Quarter: The Raiders started with the ball first after a Gary Russell kick return. An eligible man down field penalty set the Raiders back five yards. A first down pass to Louis Murphy picked up five, a run by Darren McFadden for a few and a third down pass to Chaz Schilens was enough for a first down. Next, Charlie Frye found Marcel Reece across the 40 yard line; however, the drive would basically stall right there as Oakland couldn't convert on third down. Shane Lechler booted it 54 yards on the punt and the ball landed in the end zone for a touchback. A couple of decent runs by Ray Rice picked up a first down for Baltimore. After Joe Flacco threw an incomplete pass on the right side thanks to a nice break-up by Stanford Routt, Trevor Scott brought down the second-year quarterback for a sack. Needing 13 yards on third down, pressure by Mike Mitchell forced another incomplete pass. Johnnie Lee Higgins didn't return the Sam Koch punt and the Raiders had it at their own 22 yard line. Five yards in three plays, the Raiders were forced to punt for a second straight time. Chris Carr, the Raiders' all-time return leader, returned it for six yards. After picking up one first down, the Ravens picked up a big-time one behind Ray Rice. Rice ran for four yards on first down and then Flacco hit Todd Heap setting up a goal-to-go situation. Following an Oakland timeout, Willis McGahee carried it twice and the second time got him in for six points. Matt Birk, Ben Grubbs and Michael Oher are great run blockers. Baltimore had taken a 7-0 lead with under four minutes to go. On the kickoff, it was Marcel Reece (yes, a fullback) returning the kick. He didn't have much success. On the third series of the game, Frye hit Schilens for the initial first down on the drive. McFadden bobbled and eventually dropped a screen pass. On second down, Frye faked a give to McFadden and then hit Higgins on the right side as the offense moved into Baltimore territory. Another apathetic run by McFadden had us longing for Michael Bush, or perhaps even Justin Fargas. On second down, Frank Walker was whistled for illegal contact on McFadden as Darren was lined up as wide receiver. A couple of plays later, the Raiders were faced with a third down and in danger of missing out on valuable points. Frye, out of the gun, was running for his life back there in and out of the pocket. Eventually moving to his right, Frye appeared to have Higgins for a first down; however, Higgins never really had control going to the ground and the referees had ruled the pass as incomplete. Tom Cable challenged the ruling on the field and he actually won the challenge. The Raiders had a first down and momentum. On the very next play with that momentum, Frye fired to the end zone and tried to hit Murphy for the score. Dawan Landry, however, knocked it down. A short pass to Zach Miller closed out the fist quarter with third down upcoming.
Willis McGahee rushed for 167 yards with a trio of scores. [via a.espncdn.com]
Second Quarter: Going for the end zone again, Frye lobbed one up or McFadden. Darren came down with the ball, but he was out of bounds. That incomplete pass brought up fourth down. Sebastian Janikowski, whose only misses are from 45, 57 and 66 yards out respectively, nailed the 37-yard field goal. The Ravens now have a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. Before the Ravens could even snap the ball on their next series, the Raiders called their second timeout. After a first down run by Rice went nowhere, Matt Shaughnessy chased down Rice on the screen pass to bring up third down. Flacco hit Kelley Washington short of the marker and he was tackled by Hiram Eugene; however, that extra effort picked up the first down. Two plays later, the Ravens were faced with another third down. Out of the backfield, it was the team's leading receiver Ray Rice once again hurting Oakland. Kirk Morrison made the tackle from behind, but it was plenty enough for a fresh set of downs. On first down, Flacco kept looking for an open receiver and was brought down from behind by Jay Richardson for no gain. A second down screen pass to Rice went backwards as Greg Ellis was the first man on the scene. Flacco's pass on third down was knocked by Richard Seymour and Baltimore was forced to punt. Higgins fair caught the boot from Koch at the 17 yard line. Despite only 11 yards rushing for the Raiders through the first 18 minutes of this game, Frye is looking good with that completion to Miller as he was 10-for-15 at that point. A second down run for McFadden was good enough for five yards, but more importantly it was enough for a first down. After an incomplete pass to Schilens, Frye went to Schilens again. This time, it was completed for 22 yards. A big hurdle by Schilens at the end of that play allowed him to pick up some more yards. Frye appeared shaken up on the play, but he remained in the game. Dwan Edwards and Terrell Suggs brought down Frye on the next play for a loss of eight yards. A 10-yard pass to Schilens wasn't nearly enough for a first down. Shane Lechler came out again and a 45-yard beauty pinned the Ravens deep inside their own territory. Right away, the Ravens get out of a jam. A big play to Heap for 19 yards was nothing, however, compared to the next play. McGahee, through the right side, completely took off for a 77-yard touchdown run. Along the way, Eugene was knocked down to the ground with ease in a laughable attempt to bring down McGahee. Nnamdi Asomugha and Tyvon Branch were way too late having to come all the way from the other side of the field. For the second time today, McGahee was in the end zone. The Ravens had a 14-3 lead with less than four minutes to go before the half. Another shockingly mediocre return by Gary Russell has the Raiders starting at the 21 yard line. Within the first few plays, a pass interference call on Carr defending Murphy gave the Raiders a first down. From their own 38 yard line now, Frye picked up a 21-yard completion to Higgins and the two-minute warning was upon us. That first down gave Oakland more than Baltimore. Another first down through the air to a wide receiver to Higgins put the ball at around the 23 yard line. Some plays later, Frye ran for a first down on third down with 53 seconds remaining in the half. Dropping back to pass on the very next play, Frye fired towards the back of the end zone and found Miller. A great catch by Zach had given Oakland their first touchdown in two weeks. After a big return by Jalen Parmele, the Ravens were in business. Derrick Mason, then, caught one for a 23-yard gain to further advance the ball. With a pair of timeouts and 23 seconds remaining, Baltimore was looking for the end zone. Washington's second grab of the game prompted the Ravens to use their second timeout with 18 seconds to go at the 14 yard line. An incomplete pass on third down -- despite Flacco being beyond the line of scrimmage -- brought up fourth down; however, the booth is reviewing the previous play to see if Flacco was past the line of scrimmage. It was as clear as day as confirmed by the officials. A 10-second runoff followed the penalty along with the five penalty yards. With two seconds to go, Billy Cundiff missed the 37-yard field goal and the Ravens took a 14-10 lead into the locker room.
Zach Miller set a new career-high in receptions (65) and yards (867) this season. [via a.espncdn.com]
Third Quarter: The Ravens began the second half with the ball. A quick three-and-out and Baltimore punted to Oakland. After a holding call on the return, in which there wasn't a return so why do you hold, the Raiders were pushed back. Look out, here, as JaMarcus Russell is in the game. Apparently, Frye's injuries are too severe for him to continue at least the moment. Russell's first pass to Schilens looked good, as it is clear who his favorite target has been over the past year now. A first down was picked up. A run and a screen both involving Michael Bush brought up a short third down. Needing just a yard and with double-gloved Russell as the quarterback, the Ravens knew it was a rush. That play went nowhere and a punt followed. The 57-yard punt by Lechler was returned by Carr, but a holding call went against the Ravens. The defense forced a second consecutive three-and-out thanks in large part to a third down blitz that brought down Flacco. A punt by Koch had the Raiders starting at their own 48 yard line. A few plays later, Russell hit Murphy over the middle for a first down to the Ravens' 39 yard line. A short run and an incomplete screen pass set up a third down with nine yards to go for the conversion. A false start penalty later, Russell fired to Schilens for 17 big yards and a first down. Down to the Baltimore 28 yard line, Bush carried it for a few yards. With just over five minutes remaining in the quarter, the Raiders called a timeout. Kelly Gregg sacked Russell following the timeout and it brought up another third down and nine yards to go. Once again, it was third down with nine yards to go. A completed pas to Schilens was short of the first down. Janikowski's field goal was good and it was his 1,000th career point, an Oakland Raider record. The Ravens had a 14-13 lead with just under four minutes to go. A second pass intended for Rice with Thomas Howard on coverage was incomplete, and it was third down with eight yards to go. Nnamdi Asomugha came all the around from the corner spot on a blitz was part of the pressure that brought down Flacco along with Huff, Morrison and big Gerard Warren. The Ravens were forced to punt. After the punt, Oakland started at their own 26 yard line. Three plays were needed for the initial first down, but the first down was picked up thanks to Russell falling forward past the right guard Cooper Carlisle. On the next play, Russell drops back and throws an interception to Dannell Ellerbe. Samson Satele finally brought him down after a good return. Baltimore had the ball at Oakland's 22 yard line following the huge return.
JaMarcus Russell was showered with a chorus of boos when entering and exiting. [via a.espncdn.com]
Fourth Quarter: The Ravens began the quarter with a 14-13 lead and in great position to add onto it. Baltimore was inside the Oakland 10 yard line. Le'Ron McClain's second down catch set up a first down, and McGahee's third touchdown run of the game gave the Ravens a 21-13 lead with just over 13 minutes to go in regulation. After picking up one first down, the drive was in danger of stalling with the Raiders facing a third down. Russell, though, threaded a big-time pass to Murphy in between two defenders for a huge play. Then, Murphy ran for a first down on the end around. After a short run by Bush, Russell turned it over once again. This time isn't an interception but rather a fumble, as he was stripped by Antwan Barnes. The Ravens continued to move the ball down the field methodically with the ground game. Then, up against a third down in Raiders territory, Flacco hit Mark Clayton working against Routt. Finally, the Raiders came up with a third down stop. This time, though, the Ravens were in field goal range. Cundiff's longest field goal on the season was from 46 yards out. This one was a 51-yard try that had the accuracy, but it was short in distance. The defense held true to their "bend but don't break" tag and now the offense needed a touchdown and the two-point conversion to tie the game with under four minutes to play. A false start penalty -- which happened to be the second one on the day for Cornell Green -- pushed Oakland back to their own 36 yard line. Three total plays and four yards later, Lechler booted the ball and Carr called for a fair catch inside the 10 yard line. Out of a shot gun on third down, Flacco handed it off to McGahee who ran all the way to midfield. That was it. The Ravens had defeated the Raiders, 21-13, in the season finale.
This is your last one of the year. Make us proud. [via cdn2.sbnation.com]
The Report Card: I'll give grades to the pass offense, rush offense, pass defense, rush defense and special teams. Of course, you're welcome to give your own grades in the comments.
Pass Offense: B- -- This is obviously tough to judge since we had two different quarterbacks back there. I would've given it an "A" with Frye and about a "C-" or "D+" with Russell, but with 282 yards and no ground game. I'd say the good outweighed the bad.
Rush Offense: D- -- With 51 yards on 20 carries, I have no choice. Murphy's end around carries were the only things to keep this from failure status. Bush and McFadden combined for 27 yards on 15 carries.
Pass Defense: A- -- Flacco only had 102 yards and didn't throw a touchdown. The defense didn't force a turnover, sure, but overall they did a really nice job against the pass especially in the second half.
Rush Defense: F -- I have nothing to say here other than 240 yards with a 6.9 average and three touchdowns is absolutely unacceptable and impossible to overcome.
Special Teams: C -- The returns sucked. The coverage sucked. Janikowski was perfect and Lechler averaged over 52 yards per punt. Overall, it evened out to a "C" average.
My Thoughts and Tidbits: We definitely had a chance to win this game, and there may have been a different outcome had Frye played the entire game instead of just a half. Russell had two turnovers, yeah, but I think it really came down to the ground game. The Ravens totally dominated with both their rush offense and their rush defense. Well, it was another 5-11 season for the Raiders. We're only about eight months away from next season. We hope to see you back again with hopefully at least a .500 team.