Pressbox — Any fan can completely sum up the devastation wreaked upon the Ravens’ secondary by the Seattle Seahawks Dec. 13 simply by taking matters into their own hands.
Because the Ravens couldn’t get their hands on quarterback Russell Wilson, defensive backs were often found grasping at air. As a result, Wilson’s hands could easily rifle the ball into his receivers’ waiting hands.
As those hands snatched a 35-6 blowout win at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens'(4-9) sweaty palms officially let their season slip away by being eliminated from the playoff chase for the second time in three years.
The Baltimore secondary, beleaguered by big plays all season long, had seemingly turned things around during the season’s third quarter, allowing just four plays of 25 or more yards after yielding 22 during the season’s first half.
However, the most recent successful efforts were not exactly recorded against the cream of the NFL’s quarterback crop.
Quarterbacks such as St. Louis’ Case Keenum, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and the Cleveland duo of Austin Davis and Josh McCown didn’t prove good enough to make the Ravens pay for their mistakes on a consistent basis.
But thanks to Wilson — one of the league leaders in passer rating and completion percentage heading into his team’s game at Baltimore — the Seahawks could.
Seattle recorded three plays of 25 or more yards and eight of 15 or more as the Ravens’ lack of a pass rush and coverage breakdowns allowed the two-time defending NFC champions to record their fourth straight win and sixth in their last seven games as they attempt a conference three-peat.
“[They are] a very good football team,” head coach John Harbaugh said of the Seahawks. “They executed. Bottom line was the big plays, especially in the passing game — touchdown passes — that was the key. Turnovers didn’t help us; [they] set up 14 points. That’s really the story of the game.”
The time Wilson had to throw was even more relevant.
Ever since the Ravens took down Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles three times during the Jaguars’ disputed win Nov. 15, the pass rush has recorded just four sacks in the last 129 dropbacks by opposing quarterbacks.
By facing the best quarterback they have seen all year in Wilson — who wasn’t sacked and hit just once — the Ravens’ mistakes were even more costly.
Wilson’s five touchdown passes were the most Baltimore has allowed all year, bettering the three achieved by Oakland’s Derek Carr, Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and San Diego’s Philip Rivers.
Also, Wilson’s barrage was tied for the third most surrendered by the Ravens in a single game and tied for the most given up during a home game.
Denver’s Peyton Manning threw for seven scores during the 2013 season opener, and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger lit up Baltimore for six last season.
Wilson’s output matched the club record set by former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who threw for five in the Ravens’ 44-41 home overtime win against Seattle in 2003.
“We already know how tough it is,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “I’m not going to stand here and make excuses. We know what the situation is. We know what we came from. We know what we don’t have. Playing in games against teams that are fighting to make the playoffs is going to be even tougher on us. Obviously, you saw that today.
“We gave up five touchdown passes. With a team like that, you have to put up some points. I’m not even talking about offensively. I’m talking about defensively. You have to find ways to put points on the board, because you’re not going to skunk these kinds of teams. They’re going to put some points up, and it’s our job to score and come back from that.”
Wilson’s first touchdown of the day came not because of his well-documented ability to run, but because of patience, time and an eventual coverage breakdown.
On the play after starting running back Thomas Rawls incurred a season-ending broken ankle, Wilson regrouped by biding his time in the pocket on a third-and-4 play from the Ravens’ 8.
Receiver Tyler Lockett ran to the left side of the end zone, then got behind cornerbacks Shareece Wright and Kyle Arrington as he cruised along the back of the end zone to his right. Wilson found an open Lockett for the game’s first score.
Later, Wilson would find Doug Baldwin single-covered by Wright, and the subsequent deep corner route turned into a touchdown.
Finally, toward game’s end, cornerback Lardarius Webb was playing well off the line of scrimmage against Lockett, who still ran by him and got at least a step’s worth of separation on his 49-yard game-clinching touchdown catch.
“I can’t pinpoint [the reason for big plays],” safety Kendrick Lewis said. “I’ve got to watch the film and see. There are some corrections that need to be made, obviously, on the big plays, but that’s what we’ve got practice and film for.”
Ultimately, it’s in the Ravens hands to make things right on a week-to-week basis.
But because they haven’t to this point, an entire season has slipped right through their hands.
Joe Platania has been covering professional football since 1994.
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