It was embarrassing. It was ugly. It hurt them in the standings. And most of all, it was unexpected. The Ravens got thrashed at home, a place where they rarely ever lose, to a team that they have handled very well as of late. In the process of their 41-7 beat down at the hands of the Patriots, the Ravens also lost their control of their playoff destiny. There were so many things that went wrong in this game, it left reporters asking head coach John Harbaugh “what went right” in the post-game press conference.
Where to start? It was the worst loss of the John Harbaugh era and the worst home loss in franchise history. The Ravens just don’t lose that way. They don’t get beat that badly, especially at home. Bad games happen, but when you add in all that was on the line, the Ravens don’t get beat like that. They’ve played close games all year long. I don’t know that anyone saw this one coming.
Joe Flacco’s injured knee. Joe won’t make excuses. Neither will anyone else. It was clear that he wasn’t right. He missed throws he usually doesn’t. He fell down and sacked himself. He walked off the field at one point with a scowl on his face that I’ve never seen. Was it wrong to play him even if his knee wasn’t 100%? Absolutely not. There was too much to play for to sit. But the Flacco we are used to seeing, even when he’s not great, looked nothing like the guy we saw on Sunday.
The stagnant offense. A Joe Flacco one-yard touchdown plunge is the only time this team has seen the end zone in the last eight quarters. The wide receivers can’t get open. The run game is still ineffective. The red zone efficiency is awful. Flacco has been up and down. The bottom line is that this offense isn’t built to win more than one post-season game, if they get there.
The implications. If all you can ask for is to control your own destiny, the Ravens now have lost that control. Instead of playing in a winner-take-all game in Cincinnati for the AFC North crown, the Ravens find themselves in the unenviable position of needing either a Dolphins or Chargers loss combined with a win in Cincy to make the post-season. A three-way tie between those clubs leaves the Ravens on the outside looking in. As well, the nightmare scenario for Ravens fans: Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers all lose combined with a Steelers win, would give Pittsburgh the final playoff spot. Regardless, the Ravens will have to back into the playoffs, something that isn’t making John Harbaugh happy.
I know that expectations are high for this team and this organization. But as I’ve struggled to figure out what this team is all season-long, I will go back to what I said mid-season. This is a team in rebuild mode. They replaced 10 starters from the Super Bowl and when you do that, you get up and down performances. Would I be surprised to see the Ravens win in week 17? No. Would I be shocked if they lost? Not at all. That’s who the Ravens are.
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