The Ravens' preseason winning streak finally ended Monday night, but not without a fight.
A 49-yard field goal by Joey Slye with 10 seconds to play lifted Washington to a 29-28 victory, ending Baltimore's NFL-record preseason winning streak at 24 games. The streak began in 2016 and Baltimore had enjoyed six straight undefeated preseasons, not including the 2020 preseason that was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Many players contributed to the streak over the years, and in most of those games, the Ravens' starters didn't play or saw limited action. Somehow, the Ravens kept finding ways to win. While the victories don't count once the regular season began, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the streak reflected the dedication and effort that the Ravens consistently put forth, regardless of the season.
"You're proud of it," Harbaugh said. "The thing that you're proud of is, all those games were mostly just like that.
"Tell me that was meaningless out there, what you just saw. If you like football, was that a meaningless football game? That's why I'm so proud of these guys for the way they fought. It doesn't matter win or lose. It matters the way they went about their business."
The Ravens' record preseason streak could stand for a long time or may not ever be broken. In 2021, the NFL reduced the preseason from four games to three, and there is speculation that the NFL preseason could be reduced to two games in the not-distant future, or eventually eliminated altogether.
There were some close calls for the Ravens during their streak, but they kept finding ways to win.
"How did something like that take place? It's pretty remarkable," Harbaugh said. "What are the odds? There's no one reason why it happened, but it says a lot about a lot of people. A lot of good practice, a lot of good meeting time, a lot of young players working hard to be as good as they can be, a lot of coaches developing those players, scouts."
Josh Johnson was with the Ravens when the streak began, and he was the starting quarterback Monday night when it ended. The streak was never a daily topic of conversation among players, but they were aware of it and wanted to keep it going.
"We don't like to lose," said Johnson, who threw two touchdown passes Monday night. "No player likes to be on the losing side of a football game. We weren't going out there talking about the streak. We just wanted to play better football.
"I was joking the other day, I survived a Coach Harbaugh training camp at my age. We work every day. From the top of the roster to the bottom of the roster, you see guys go out there and play good football. It's a credit to this organization, credit to the coaching staff, credit to the players. We show up every day with a work mentality and it shows up on the field."
Washington starting quarterback Sam Howell played the first half, but watched from the sideline as the Commanders came back to win. He enjoyed watching the intensity on both sides.
"We had a third group in that last two-minute drive, they were running cover zero every single play, and we were trying to take shots downfield," Howell said. "It was so much fun to watch and be a part of."
The Commanders were aware of the streak, and some of them clearly took extra satisfaction seeing it end as they celebrated after Slye's winning kick.
"Obviously it was meaningful to them," Harbaugh said. "I saw them celebrating over there. More power to them. Congratulations. They won a hard-fought football game."