LANDOVER, Md. - Twice in two weeks, the Ravens have sustained a defeat on the last play of the game. Four weeks in a row, they have had contests decided by a field goal.
This has been a difficult run for Baltimore, which had the Redskins trailing by eight points heading into the final possession of regulation, only to surrender the last 11 points of the game to fall 31-28 in overtime.
The Ravens (9-4), who have now suffered consecutive losses for the first time since a three-game skid in October 2009, might’ve knocked Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III out of the game on that last drive with a sprained right knee.
But fellow rookie passer Kirk Cousins was there to finish off the tying push and then take the two overtime snaps before Kai Forbath’s game-winning 34-yard field goal.
Linebacker Paul Kruger (1.5 sacks) even admitted he would’ve been surprised had he been told the Ravens would lose if Griffin were removed.
“I felt confident with him in the game. I think we should’ve won this game,” Kruger said. “It’s just a killer to come down here and play hard, play a full game like that, and then to lose it like we did. It’s rough. We’ve got to do everything we can to get back this coming week and play a good game. We really need it.”
After allowing 14 points in the first 12:05 of the game, the Ravens limited the Redskins to six - two Forbath field goals off a pair of turnovers - until Griffin and Cousins engineered the drive that sent the game to overtime.
The possession almost didn’t even happen because returner Niles Paul fumbled the prior kickoff and David Reed was originally ruled to have recovered it. But it was returned to Washington on review because Reed was touching the sideline when he corralled the ball.
So the Redskins got the ball back with 4:39 on the clock and four stoppages (three timeouts and the two-minute warning) at their disposal.
And they drained all but 29 seconds with a 13-play, 85-yard drive.
Griffin was in for the first seven plays, but was hurt on a Haloti Ngata hit. Cousins entered for one snap, and the Ravens were flagged for pass interference.
Griffin then came back on at the Redskins 47 and drove his team to the Baltimore 16. His final play was an intentional grounding that pushed Washington back to the Ravens 26 with 45 seconds remaining.
Cousins entered and erased the eight-point margin. He first passed to Leonard Hankerson for 15 yards and then to Pierre Garcon for an 11-yard touchdown. With the Ravens still up 28-26, Cousins rushed to the left for a tying two-point conversion.
In overtime, the Ravens were burned with a rare special teams mishap. They started the session with a three-and-out before Sam Koch punted 56 yards.
Richard Crawford returned it 64 yards to the Ravens 24, putting the Redskins in field-goal range and in position to end it.
“I saw it break out,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We got on different levels on a long punt, and he was able to kind of negotiate the first wave and then cut it back, and there was no cut-back defender there to take it.”
Three plays later, Forbath split the uprights from 34 yards away and it was the Redskins fans leaving jubilant rather than the multitude of Ravens supporters at FedEx Field.
The Ravens had played a strong second half after struggling early, but couldn’t contain the Redskins in the final moments.
“We definitely shut them down in the second half. It was just that last, final drive,” said defensive end Arthur Jones (1.5 sacks). “The guy’s a good athlete and when he went down, his backup stepped up. So it’s unfortunate. It’s really unfortunate. It’s a tough lost game and we’ve got to bounce back.”
Safety Ed Reed said he had a few things going through his mind on that last drive.
“Not to let them in the end zone, to play great defense and get a stop,” Reed said. “They made two good plays and hats off to them. The Redskins played a great game. We played a great game, but too many mistakes.”
The Ravens were outgained 420-359, letting an opponent surpass 400 yards for the first time since Nov. 11. They also lost the time of possession battle with the Redskins holding the ball for 34:01.
Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Washington rookie Alfred Morris staged an impressive rushing battle. Rice ended with 121 yards and one touchdown while Morris had 122 yards and a score.
Joe Flacco, who committed the two second-half turnovers that let Washington trim a seven-point margin to one, put up efficient overall numbers. He went 16-for-21 for 182 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
But Griffin was the winning quarterback because he didn’t make mistakes. He passed for 246 yards and a touchdown while adding 34 rushing yards.
In the moments that mattered most, the Ravens were unable to come through while their geographical rivals were able to take advantage.
“We all need to do better. We all need to find a way to finish the game better,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Reed hopes the team is able to take positives from the experience of the last two weeks, losing on game-ending field goals to Pittsburgh and Washington.
“This helps us grow, going through adversity like this, going through a tough loss, playing against a tough team,” Reed said. “Those guys over there are a headache. Morris is an awesome back in this scheme with coach (Mike) Shanahan.
“What they’re doing, it’s an awesome scheme. But once you get settled in it, you can kind of pick your poison a little bit, know what they’re doing. But at the same time, you have to get lined up. We have to do what we have to do to execute against their plays, and we didn’t.”