It's been this kind of season for the defending Super Bowl champs: A tough-to-take overtime loss in Chicago became even more painful for the Baltimore Ravens when general manager Ozzie Newsome became too ill to take the flight home.
Newsome returned to Baltimore on Monday and immediately slipped behind his desk following a night in Chicago in which the 57-year-old underwent a battery of tests, according to coach John Harbaugh.
"He's been here all afternoon working, so he's back and has a clean bill of health," Harbaugh said. "We don't know exactly what caused the situation (Sunday), but it wasn't anything serious. So he seems to be doing fine."
The Ravens lost 23-20 in a game delayed about two hours by bad weather. Harbaugh found out about Newsome's illness early Sunday evening as the team prepared to head back to Baltimore.
"I went back and saw him. At that point in time, they said they thought he was OK," Harbaugh said. "But they had to keep him overnight for observation just to make sure."
Newsome has not displayed signs of ill health recently. He is often seen in workout clothes after a run on the treadmill or around the practice facility, and he enjoys other forms of cardio exercise.
Newsome's apparent recovery was a welcome piece of good news in the wake of another agonizing defeat. With their fourth loss in five games, the Ravens (4-6) fell 2½ games behind the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.
Baltimore led 10-0 before a torrential downpour forced a two-hour stoppage.
"You come out and put 10 quick ones up and you feel like you're going pretty good, you feel like you're able to do what we wanted to do against them and you have the delay," said quarterback Joe Flacco, who ended up 17 for 31 for 162 yards and two costly interceptions.
"It's frustrating because I felt like we had the ability to really let it go and explode on offense and we just didn't do it."
The Bears went up 20-17 before the Ravens got a first-and-goal at the muddy Chicago 5-yard line in the final minute of regulation. Two runs and a pass failed, and the Ravens had to settle for a field goal.
That set up the Bears to win in overtime and hand Baltimore its fifth loss by six points or fewer.
"In the end, it comes down to doing the things we have to do to win a tight game in tough conditions," Harbaugh said.
The biggest problem has been turnovers. One of Flacco's interceptions was returned for a touchdown and the other set up a Chicago field goal just before halftime.
"What we can't be doing is turning the ball over in those situations," Harbaugh said. "The thing that we talked about today is that we create too many opportunities for our opponent.
"That's what we do too much this year. I think that's the biggest difference in other years when we won these close games. We've got to do a better job of that starting right now."
The Ravens have a minus-5 turnover differential this season thanks primarily to Flacco's career-high 13 interceptions. Baltimore has already coughed up the ball 18 times compared to 16 all last season.
Newsome has built two Super Bowl champion teams in Baltimore and has a current run of five straight playoff appearances. He has kept the team in the upper echelon of the NFL by mastering the draft and shrewdly working the salary cap.
After the Ravens beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl last February, Newsome reworked the roster with an eye toward the future. He discarded several veterans such as Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, signed a few free agents and hoped the new blend would work.
So far, the results have been disappointing.
"We would all rather be sitting here talking about being atop the division and chasing home-field advantage or something like that," Harbaugh said. "That's something that we were shooting for. We wanted to be in that position. We haven't done the things we needed to do to be in that position. But we're in the hunt."
Baltimore is still in the muddled AFC playoff mix and its next three games are at home, beginning with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We're playing two teams the next two weeks at home that are right there in the hunt with us. We're chasing a division leader that we have in our sights and we play again," Harbaugh said. "We are right there. We can do it, and we're good enough to do it. We've got every tool we need. We believe we have what it takes, but it's up to us to prove it."
Beginning Sunday against the Jets (5-5).
"I think it's pretty obvious that it's critically important," Harbaugh said. "If we don't win this game, it's going to be really tough."
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