Is Ravens' Season Over? What They're Saying
On the same day the last-place Ravens led the Cleveland Browns by 12 points in the third quarter only to fall in overtime, the first-place Cincinnati Bengals turned their 17-point deficit into a come-from behind victory in overtime.
That's what playoff-caliber teams do. They find a way to win.
"That about says it all," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Alexander Pyles.
Baltimore finds itself alone at the bottom of the AFC North with a 1-2 division record and 1-4 overall record, while the Bengals sit atop the division with an undefeated 5-0 mark.
"Neither of those records is remotely fluky," wrote TheMMQB.coms' Peter King.
All of the Ravens' losses have been by six points or less, which gave the team and its fans hope that maybe Baltimore just got off to a bad start and was still a playoff-caliber team. But that hope is beginning to die a slow death for fans and media.
"Every Ravens game has been close, but at 1-4, each week the same problems are preventing them from winning those games. It's not just bad luck," wrote Pyles.
Added his colleague Jon Meoli, "[T]here's no more taking solace in close losses for this team."
Mathematically, the Ravens' season is not over. It's possible they go on a massive winning streak, but the odds are against it happening. Only 5 percent of the teams that began 1-4 have advanced to the postseason since 1990.
The problem is the Ravens aren't showing they are capable of such a turnaround. Analysts and fans rationalized losing to Denver and Oakland on the road, or to Cincinnati because of its undefeated record.
But losing at home to a team that Head Coach John Harbaugh was previously 13-1 against, a team that ranked No. 32 on defense and No. 20 on offense?
"The Ravens gave up 505 yards to the Browns on Sunday ... in Baltimore," wrote King.
It all adds up to one thing: pundits believe the Ravens' season is all but officially over:
Jamison Hensley, ESPN: "It's time to face a sobering reality about the Ravens: They're not a playoff team. To be more precise, the Ravens are a shell of one. There are plenty of reasons why the Ravens are 1-4 for the first time in their 20-year existence. The defense isn't holding fourth-quarter leads, the offense is too sporadic and penalties are causing them to self-destruct. But let's be honest, injuries have put a painful end to a season of high expectations. … As much as that Thursday night overtime win in Pittsburgh lifted the spirits of the Ravens, the overtime loss Sunday to Cleveland squashed them. It was a demoralizing kick in the gut. It was a reality check."
Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun: "Even the things that you used to be able to count on with the Ravens are now gone. They can't finish games. They can't stop journeymen quarterbacks. They can't win at home. Heck, they can't even beat the Browns anymore. At this point, even the most optimistic Ravens fan can't possibly think this is a playoff-caliber team. They are flawed in every way and injuries have thinned out their talent level considerably. The coaches have had no answers either. The players said all the right things about responding to the challenge, but those are just words at this point. The Ravens haven't been able to back it up on the field and it's tough to see that changing any time soon."
Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun: "When you lose to the Cleveland Browns at home, your season is officially shot. It feels increasingly as if the 2015 Ravens will be defined by injuries. A tattered secondary just allowed Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards. This will go down as one of the worst losses in John Harbaugh's tenure."
Clifton Brown, CSNMidAtlantic.com: "Many have buried the Ravens already. Others are at least reaching for the shovel."
Alex Marvez, FoxSports.com: "The Ravens (1-4) are on track for their first top 10 draft pick since 2008."
Jason La Canfora, CBSSports.com:"The Ravens' lack of discipline isn't getting nearly enough attention. It's actually more rampant than Buffalo's, and it is a hallmark of the offense, defense and special teams. On Sunday against the Browns, the Ravens … were penalized 12 times for 98 yards on the day and this team isn't nearly talented enough in any aspect of play to continue to play in such a brazen fashion. This team could easily be 0-5, and it continues to look like a lost season in Baltimore."
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: "You know who gets the F (grade)? The team that turned Josh McCown into Otto Graham, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar all in one. That's the Baltimore Ravens. You let Josh McCown come into your building and throw for over 450 yards and beat you in overtime? You're the Baltimore Ravens! You needed this game. Your season's on the line. You're known for defense. … That's a disgrace."
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: "I didn't pick Baltimore as my AFC Super Bowl team, but I thought about it, and plenty of others went with the Ravens, who are looking up at everyone else in the AFC North and currently saddled with the first 1–4 record in franchise history. Baltimore travels to San Francisco next week, so get ready for plenty of stories about how far and how fast those two clubs have fallen since meeting in the Super Bowl three seasons ago."
Brian McFarland, Russell Street Report: "The slow, painful death of a season …"
Joe Polek, Russell Street Report: "Win or lose, it didn't really matter. Between injuries and penalties and just not being a good football team, the Ravens season seems like a lost cause. The defense is soft, the Secondary is poor, and the entire team is not disciplined. As much as I put into these games emotionally, it seems like the payout this season will not be a good one. Ravens fans have been very lucky to be a part of such a winning franchise. Seasons like this a few and far between but it doesn't make it any easier."
Flacco Won't Use Injuries As Excuse, But Everyone Else Thinks It Matters
Players and coaches can't use injuries as an excuse.
It's an unwritten rule in a league where all 32 teams have to play through them. Plus, if they do, there's a chance it could lead to teams giving up on the season too early. That's why quarterback Joe Flacco, and all the other Ravens who said injuries aren't an excuse, had the perfect approach.
That said, the Ravens' mounting injuries are absolutely taking a toll and are a major reason for the team sitting at the bottom of the division.
"Flacco says you can't use injuries as an excuse. It's just inexcusable not to recognize this isn't the Ravens team that General Manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh envisioned putting on the field," wrote Hensley. "To say injuries have decimated this team is an understatement. The number of wounded Ravens rivals an episode of 'The Walking Dead.'"
And the problem isn't just the sheer number of injuries. It's that they are piling up at specific positions. So not only were the Ravens without a slew of starters as they headed into a crucial overtime against the Browns, but they were without many of the lost starters' primary backups.
Here's who was missing when the Ravens fought for their season in the extra period:
Top two receivers, four overall: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro and Darren Waller
Two of their top three corners, three overall: Lardarius Webb, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington
Top two running backs: Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro
Top two tight ends: Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore
Top two pass-rushers: Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil
Top defensive end: Chris Canty
In other words, $37.4 million of the team's salary cap – more than one quarter – was sitting on the sideline with the season hanging in the balance, per Hensley.
How Serious Are Ravens' Injuries?
Harbaugh did not give any status updates on the players that went down Sunday (Dumervil, Waller, Webb, Davis, Arrington, Forsett) and there are few reports.
Zrebiec did report that Davis' injury may be more serious. If that's true, it's a shame for a corner that was buried on the depth chart in Miami and took full advantage of his opportunity in Baltimore and seemed to help solidify the secondary.
As for Forsett, he revealed little about his ankle when speaking with reporters after the game. He simply said that he could have done more damage to his injury had he returned to help in overtime.
Dr. David J. Chao, former NFL team physician of 17 years, gave his diagnosis on Forsett based solely on watching the film. His high ankle sprain diagnosis is simply an educated guess.
Aiken, Brown Disappear Late
With so many receivers missing, the Ravens badly needed backups Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown to step up.
Aiken did so in the first quarter, catching three passes for 73 yards, but he trailed off after that, reeling in just one reception for 5 yards the rest of the game. Meanwhile, Brown caught one pass for zero yards.
"There have been too many players disappearing rather than stepping up," wrote Hensley. "[Brown's] disappointing season continued with another forgettable performance."
What Happened To Ray Lewis' Defense?
The Ravens defense is starting to rack up stats that rank among the worst in franchise history.
We already know it gave up the third-most passing yards in franchise history to journeyman McCown Sunday, but WSNT's Luke Jones dug in to find a few other stats.
The defense is allowing 27.4 points per game this season. The 1996 squad owns the worst mark in franchise history at 27.6 allowed per contest. It has allowed 137 points through five games. The 2000 team allowed 165 points in a 16-game regular season.
Ravens fans were all over social media talking about how Ray Lewis and Ed Reed didn't leave this legacy. A few media brought it up as well.
"The once-vaunted Ravens defense is a shell of itself," wrote The Sun's Ron Fritz.
"This isn't the same defense that had Hall of Famers like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and put fear in opposing offenses," added Hensley.