BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Defensive tackle Brandon Williams, a nine-year veteran with the Baltimore Ravens, called the 2021 season a “whirlwind.”
On Sunday, the Ravens were officially eliminated from the postseason following a 16-13 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Six weeks–what feels like an eternity–ago, Baltimore was sitting at 8-3, the No. 1 seed in the AFC.READ MORE: Maryland Prepares For Increase In Patients After Roe V. Wade Overturned
They lost the next six games–five of them by a total of eight points.
“You couldn’t tell me that the season was going to end up like this and me believe it,” Williams told reporters on Monday. “You couldn’t tell me we were going to start with so many injuries and win so many games.”
In a way, those injuries came to be one of the defining storylines of the season before the first game was even played.
The Ravens lost starting running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters before the season even started. Edwards and Peters went down with non-contact injuries in the same practice.
Rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman, the team’s first-round pick, suffered a groin injury that kept him out until Week 6.
The hits–and the trips to the COVID-19/Reserve List–kept coming.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was coming back from an ankle injury that knocked him out midway through the 2020 season, played in the team’s opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, felt he wasn’t right, and opted in October for season-ending surgery.
Safety DeShon Elliott was lost for the year during the Ravens’ Week 9 overtime win against the Minnesota Vikings.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the team’s game against the Chicago Bears with an illness, giving backup Tyler Huntley the opportunity to lead a heroic game-winning comeback.
Despite all the setbacks, the Ravens entered their Week 13 game at Pittsburgh 8-3, needing a record-setting Justin Tucker field goal, an overtime Tucker kick, and Jackson’s wizardry against the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts to get there.
Then the wheels fell off. Baltimore lost to the Steelers, 20-19, after failing to convert a two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game. Even worse, the team lost former All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
In the next week, playing against the Browns, Jackson went down early in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He wouldn’t play for the rest of the year.READ MORE: Rewards Programs Can Offset Painful Prices At Baltimore Gas Stations
Even without so many starters, the team remained in the playoff hunt and agonizingly close to winning games. Following the losses to Pittsburgh and Cleveland by a combined three points, Baltimore lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-30 (once again missing on a game-deciding two-point conversion); to the Los Angeles Rams 20-19; and to the Steelers 16-13.
The only blowout was a 41-21 loss to the Bengals, when Huntley was placed on the COVID-19 list and the team had to reach for journeyman quarterback Josh Johnson.
Asked about the drastically different parts of the season, veteran linebacker Josh Bynes aid it came down to execution, as they had during the first 11 games.
“It just came down to us not finishing,” he said. “We didn’t finish a play the right way, didn’t make a tackle at the right time. And that other team made that one more play.”
Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, a free agent signing in the offseason, said he’s been a part of multiple losing streaks during previous stops with the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants. This one was different, as the Ravens were in it almost every time.
“I think that shows, no matter who was out there, we were able to fight, we competed,” he said. “We were right there.”
Every player who talked with the media on Monday touted the team’s resiliency in the face of so much adversary.
“It’s crazy, our guys just fought. We’re a bunch of fighters. We never batted an eye, we never shied away from anybody, no matter what the team’s record was, we was always ready,” said Jackson.
“Even when those tough losses happened, we’d come back and put it all on the line again,” said wide receiver Marquise Brown.
The players who spoke on Monday said they were already looking forward to next year, and the chance of getting healthy players returning to run it back with the same group.
“Everybody’s locked in for next season. Everybody’s ready to go–take time off, get their bodies right, and get back into grind mode,” said linebacker Patrick Queen.
Williams, a pending free agent, said the roster didn’t need an extensive overhaul. (Asked about his future, he replied, “As long as they want me, I’ll be here.”)MORE NEWS: Mistrial Declared For Dirt Bike Star Accused In New Year's Day Deadly Stabbing
“It’s not like there’s some crazy rebuilding we’ve got to do,” he said. “We’ve just got to get some guys back. We’ve just got to get some guys healthy and add some more pieces to the puzzle, like we’re going to do this offseason, and keep on riding. We’re going to double back on it.”