5 Keys to the Game

1. Turnovers. The Baltimore Ravens' fortunes were pulled like gravity into a violent crash landing. Winners of three consecutive football games until Sunday's debacle, the Ravens' 20-12 major setback to the Oakland Raiders cost them a one-game edge in the AFC North over the Cincinnati Bengals. And it was glaringly obvious why Baltimore (8-6) lost to a Oakland team that had lost eight of its last nine games.

2. Field position. Primarily, the defense controlled the Raiders' passing game and limited the Raiders to 2.5 yards per rush with 31 attempts for 79 yards. Baltimore constantly had to defend short fields. The Raiders' average drive began at their own 43, and Baltimore's started its 13 drives with an average field position of its own 25. Punter Shane Lechler had an impressive 43.9 average, including two downed inside the 20 and a 65-yarder. 3. Instant replay. The Ravens lost a challenge and a timeout on a disputed 2-point conversion attempt that followed a Todd Heap touchdown. Running up the middle, it appeared that Chester Taylor's leg drive carried the football into the end zone. Yet, replay officials said it was inconclusive whether his knees touched the ground first. 

3. Decision-making. Curiously, the Ravens opted to not attempt more runs with Lewis in short-yardage. Obviously, the Raiders stacked the line of scrimmage. With Wright compiling a 65.8 quarterback rating and clearly off his game, waggle passes, fake reverses and naked bootlegs weren't as effective as pounding Lewis up the middle. His game-high 125 yards could have had a greater impact as Baltimore went 2-for-12 on third downs. 

4. Special-teams breakdowns Return specialist Lamont Brightful made a decision he regrets, trying to scoop up a bouncing punt near the sidelines. He fumbled and Oakland recovered, but didn't score. A 71-yard kickoff return to Doug Gabriel set up a field goal. 

5. Penalties and red-zone scoring. The Ravens reverted to bad habits: flagged eight times for 55 yards and going 1-for-3 inside the Raiders' 20. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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