The Ravens’ collapse on Sunday was so swift, so decisive, so all-consuming that it felt inevitable before it even ended. The Ravens were on top, and then they weren’t. They led on a field goal with just over two minutes left, then had their backs to their own goal line. They had Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with a clutch double and then their lead was gone.

So much went wrong by the end of the Ravens’ 42-38 loss at M&T Bank Stadium that it was hard to remember how much went right through three quarters. The nightmarish fourth quarter seemed to unfold in slow motion, descending deeper into chaos with each drive, each play, rich with the possibility of worse.

It takes a special fight to blow a three-touchdown lead to squander a historic day from quarterback Lamar Jackson, and the Ravens obliged. Their short-yardage rushing attack and late-game offense broke down. Their rush never materialized. Their secondary suffered even more injuries, ruined coverage and made middle linebacker look like Dan Marino.

Jalen Waddle’s 7-yard touchdown catch with 14 seconds left turned the Ravens’ early dominance into dust, just an unpleasant reminder of one of the worst losses in franchise history. Only once before, in 1997, did the Ravens blow a 21-point lead.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest comebacks, maybe in the history of the National Football League, and we’re going to give them credit,” coach John Harbaugh said after the Ravens became the first NFL team in 12 years to lose a lead by at least 21 points. “We have to own it, every single person. I said to the guys in the locker room, ‘How we react to this is going to be history.’ …

“We have a 17-game season; it’s the second week of the season. What we’re doing from now on is everybody’s looking at what we’ve done — the coaches, the players, everybody, the calls we’ve made, the plays we’ve made, the plays we haven’t made — and let’s come out of here the best football team for it.”

They were the better team for 45 minutes. They certainly had the best defender for 45 minutes. Jackson entered the fourth quarter with a perfect passer rating and the highlight of the game, a career-long 79-yard touchdown run that extended the Ravens’ lead to 35-14. Jackson finished with 437 yards of total offense and four scores, becoming the first player in NFL history to run and pass for a touchdown of at least 75 yards in the same game.

When Miami’s heavy pressure finally figured out, Jackson and the offense circled most of the day, redeeming a forgettable night and stunning upset in Miami Gardens, Fla., a year ago. The Ravens scored touchdowns on six of their first eight possessions, and one of those drives was a yard to make it seven points. When Miami crossed midfield late in the third quarter, the Dolphins had just a 1.3% chance of winning, according to ESPN.

“We moved the ball, scoring points,” said Jackson, whose 11th career 100-yard game (nine carries for 119 yards) broke a tie with Michael Vick for the NFL record. “We just need to finish. It came to the fourth quarter.”

And in those last 15 minutes, the Ravens of 2022 turned into the Ravens of late 2021. By that point late at night, the defense was already shorthanded, losing cornerback Kyle Fuller in Week 1 to a season-ending knee injury, cornerback Brandon Stevens in practice to a minor quadriceps injury and outside linebacker Steven Means injured his ankle in the second quarter.

To make matters worse, the cornerbacks available were either limited (Marlon Humphrey and season debutant Marcus Peters), rookies (Jalin Armor-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams) or signed to practice squads (Darryl Worley). The secondary saves through three quarters were two interceptions by safety Marcus Williams.

But with the Ravens’ pass rush (one sack, two quarterback hits) unable to trouble Tagovailoa, Miami’s offense had plenty of time to lay down the dynamite. Wide receiver River Cracraft ignited the fire with a 2-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Ravens’ short-yardage offense could destroy him. But after the Ravens failed to fumble on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line early in the second quarter and took a 14-0 lead, after Jackson scored on fourth-and-one just behind midfield, he yielded to Miami’s short field more than nine minutes left. With running back JK Dobbins (knee) sidelined again, the Ravens’ running backs struggled early and disappeared late, combining for 28 yards on 14 carries.

Not even four minutes passed, as the score became equal. On third-and-10, wide receiver Tyreek Hill (11 catches for 190 yards), often a problem for the Ravens when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs, ran over Peters and safety Kyle Hamilton for a 48-yard touchdown. yards. After a Ravens 3-and-out, he beat Armor-Davis on 3rd-and-6 for a 60-yard, game-tying touchdown. Miami’s 21-0 run took just under seven minutes.

The culprit in both bombs was the same: a misunderstanding that haunted the Ravens in their upset loss to Miami last season. Hill’s second score was particularly egregious; Hamilton and Marcus Williams, who lined up near the line of scrimmage before the snap, both dropped in coverage after the snap. As the play unfolded, Damarion Williams shadowed one half of the field, leaving the Hill side wide open behind Armor-Davis.

“There was a misunderstanding,” Hamilton said of the second result. “That’s what we preach and we practice every day, but we just have to be about it in the game and I think it showed at the end.”

“We’ll watch film,” said Humphrey, whose lingering groin injury, along with Peters stepping up from last year’s knee injury, forced the Ravens to switch to cornerback. “Obviously we know it’s very bad, but we’ll watch the film and then we have to go from there, figure out what went wrong.”

The Ravens made the final push, setting up kicker Justin Tucker for a 51-yard field goal with 2:23 left. That was plenty of time for Tagovailoa (36-for-50 for 469 yards and six touchdowns) and the Dolphins.

Their final 68 yards came easily, as if they were back to working seven-on-seven in training camp: 3-yard pass to Waddle, 21-yard Hill, 9-yard Hill, 28-yard run by running back Chase Edmonds. Even the Ravens’ one stop was bittersweet, as Damarion Williams left the game with an ankle injury after forcing an incompletion in the end zone.

With 19 seconds left, Tagovailoa dropped back, started to wind up, collected himself, got up in the pocket and looked to Waddle (11 catches for 171 yards), who moved toward the corner of the end zone before turning back inside, Armor-Davis a step behind. His diving grab gave the Dolphins their first lead of the game. He celebrated by throwing his arms above his head as if to indicate that the Ravens had lost a lot of ground.

“We have a lot of corrections to make, but you have to give them credit,” Harbois said. “They made plays. They continued to fight. A lot of times you get a big lead and you know teams are just trying to get out of the game without stopping the bleeding, but they just keep fighting.”

After Jackson’s Hail Mary attempt to wide receiver Rashad Bateman (four catches for 108 yards and a score, including a 75-yard catch and run) fell incomplete, the Ravens were left to consider the consequences of their failure and the sum of their shortcomings .

They allowed 547 yards of total offense, third most in franchise history. They stopped just four of Miami’s 11 third-down opportunities — and gave up four touchdowns on late downs. They went just 1-for-3 on fourth down. They squandered the momentum they built up over the first seven quarters of the season, which were very impressive. A nasty review of the film will follow. Seven long days separated them from their next game, a road trip against the New England Patriots.

“We have to carry it,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It sucks, but they beat us.”

3 week

RAVENS @ PATRIOTS

Next Sunday, 13.00

TV: see 45

radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

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