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3 things we learned about the Ravens

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BALTIMORE — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and his teammates have fallen just short on several fourth-quarter comebacks this season.

So, when Flacco got the ball back with just over two minutes left in a tie game against the San Diego Chargers, he was determined to help his team finally do the celebrating.

Flacco drove the team down the field, and a 39-yard field goal by Justin Tucker with three seconds remaining gave the Ravens a 29-26 victory over the Chargers on Sunday that snapped a three-game losing streak.

Despite the win, the Ravens suffered a major blow when leading wide receiver Steve Smith tore his Achilles tendon late in the third quarter and is out for the season.

“Joe Flacco made plays under duress,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He always plays that way, but he stepped up today and made some plays that were phenomenal football plays that great players make.”

Flacco threw a big 18-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Givens on the final drive. The winning kick was then set up by a 21-yard pass interference penalty on Chargers cornerback Steve Williams on a third-and-19 play that gave the Ravens the ball on the San Diego 22-yard line.

Flacco completed 25 of 37 passes for 319 yards. He threw for a touchdown and ran for one.

“It feels good,” Flacco said “We don’t make it easy.”

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, including a 70-yard strike to wide receiver Malcom Floyd. Rivers was 28 of 37 for 301 yards. He set a franchise record with four straight games with 300 passing yards or more.

“After the game, I said to Joe (Flacco), ‘It’s been a crazy year for both of us,’ ” Rivers said. “That’s not a 2-6 team over there. I know the Ravens can say the same things we’re saying about penalties and injuries. There’s just no easy solution.”

What we learned about the Ravens:

1. The Ravens suffered a major setback when wide receiver Steve Smith tore his Achilles tendon in the third quarter Sunday against the San Diego Chargers and is out for the year. Smith had announced in training camp that he planned to retire at the end of this season. “What hurts the most is I can’t be out there with my guys,” Smith said after the Ravens’ 29-26 victory. “We had a great win today and that’s really all that counts.” Smith, who led the team with five catches for 82 yards, was injured making a 17-yard catch and run at half field. Smith has more receptions on the season than all of the Ravens’ other receivers combined. As a result, he will be almost impossible to replace. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco doesn’t have many weapons at wide receiver and the injury to Smith only compounds the problem. Flacco made some nice throws to extend drives and had a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore. Still, Flacco has not been able to match teams that have a high-flying offense and can take advantage of Baltimore’s struggles in the secondary. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the team’s first-round pick, was expected to provide a boost but he has yet to play a snap because of a knee injury. Flacco, like the rest of his teammates, was visibly distressed about Smith’s injury. “I am not afraid to say when you have a guy like that, what he means to the team, this organization, myself,” Flacco said. “What’s he’s done and just the kind of competitor he is…it’s a little bit tougher when you lose a guy like that, that you know loves the game of football and wants to be out there with all of us.”

2. The Ravens have shifted players, mixed schemes and made adjustments. Still, they cannot find a solution to fix their beleaguered secondary. The unit struggled again against San Diego and it appears the Ravens will simply have to spend another offseason searching for answers. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a big day, completing 28 of 37 passes for 301 yards with three touchdowns. Rivers threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd with both safety Will Hill and cornerback Kyle Arrington in coverage. “We didn’t play the coverage correctly,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s a route we knew they were going to run against that coverage. It’s one route we didn’t want to give up against that style of coverage and we gave it up.” The Ravens have gone five straight games without forcing a turnover. Still, the defense did show some progress against the Chargers and was able to come up with some big stops. They can look at the film this week and find many positives. “There were still a lot of things that we could have done better,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “But the win is all that matters.”

3. Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil set a goal to break the single-season sack record held by former Giant Michael Strahan. So far, Dumervil has 2.5. He was not able to get much penetration even though the Chargers had three offensive lineman leave in the first half with injuries. The season-ending injury to fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) has allowed teams to focus on shutting down Dumervil. The injury to Suggs has also forced to Dumervil to play more snaps and he has shown some wear-and-tear. The Chargers had three offensive lineman — center Chris Watt, guard Chris Hairston and left tackle King Dunlap — leave with injuries but still managed a 10-6 lead on a 9-yard pass from Rivers to wide receiver Malcom Floyd with 10:16 left in the half. That capped an 80-yard drive. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan did manage the team’s only sack on Philip Rivers. In the end, the team was just happy to finally get a win. “We have a lot of games left, but it was great to know we’re headed in the right direction,” Dumervil said.

Ets.:

–WR Steve Smith tore his Achilles tendon in the third quarter Sunday against the San Diego Chargers and is out for the season. Smith had announced in training camp that he planned to retire at the end of this season. “What hurts the most is I can’t be out there with my guys,” Smith said after the Ravens’ 29-26 victory. “We had a great win today and that’s really all that counts.” Smith, who led the team with five catches for 82 yards, was injured making a 17-yard catch and run at half field. Smith has more receptions on the season than all of the Ravens’ other receivers combined.

–LT Eugene Monroe (shoulder) was scratched after leaving the Monday night game against the Cardinals with the injury, It was the 10th game Monroe has missed over the past two seasons in Baltimore. Monroe also missed time this season with a concussion. James Hurst made his fourth start in Monroe’s place and struggled mightily as the Ravens allowed three sacks.

–WR Jeremy Butler is inactive for the second straight week after being called up to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. He spent all of last season on Baltimore’s injured reserve. The Ravens are hoping he can grow into a viable downfield threat.

–S Kendrick Lewis was back in the lineup after missing the Monday night game against Arizona. He was injured Week 6 against San Francisco in the third quarter and could not return Lewis was later diagnosed with a “bone bruise.” He had three tackles against San Diego.

–TE Maxx Williams (knee, ankle) was held of the lineup against the Chargers. Williams returned to practice earlier in the week after missing the game against the Cardinals. However, the Ravens decided to hold him out of the lineup. Williams took over the starting role earlier this month when Crockett Gillmore missed two games with a calf injury. Williams has 12 catches for 108 yards.

–S Matt Elam, who is out for the season with a biceps injury, was suspended one game without pay for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. “Matt has been in our building rehabbing his injury on a regular basis, and he will continue to do so,” the Ravens said in a statement.


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