In the Ravens’ three previous losses, there were singular problems to point to.
C.J. Mosley went down in Cincinnati and threw the defense into disarray. There was a dropped game-winning touchdown pass in Cleveland. A missed extra point killed a comeback against the Saints.
Sunday’s game in Carolina was different. The Ravens just got beat – badly – and they know it.
Baltimore got bested in all areas in a 36-21 loss to the Panthers that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
“We just didn’t have it,” said Head Coach John Harbaugh, who put the loss on his shoulders. “We weren’t there in terms of what we needed to do – coaching, playing, anything else.”
Probably the most surprising part is the points allowed by the Ravens’ top-ranked defense.
After getting a stop on the Panthers’ first drive, Baltimore gave up 24 straight points to close out the first half. The Ravens have given up 53 points over the last five quarters. Since the start of the fourth quarter against the Saints, Baltimore’s defense surrendered points on eight of the next nine drives.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton carved them up, completing 21 of 29 passes for 219 yards and running for 52 yards and another touchdown.
“That didn’t go the way I envisioned it,” safety Eric Weddle said to start his press conference. “They presented a lot of misdirection, formations, different plays. It was tough to get in a rhythm with them. Cam played an outstanding game.”
After scoring a touchdown on their first drive, the Ravens offense didn’t reach the end zone again until late in the third quarter. Joe Flacco threw two interceptions, but said the turnovers can’t be used as an excuse. They weren’t good in any facet.
“We got our butts kicked today. It’s tough to take, for sure,” Flacco said. “Before you know it, you’re hit over the head by a team playing more physical than you and beating you in every way.”
Baltimore now finds itself at 4-4 at the midpoint of the season – right in the middle of the pack in the NFL. It’s deflating after a 3-1 start capped by a confidence-boosting, dominant win in Pittsburgh.
It’s easy to feel worse though considering the Ravens have lost three of their last four and just suffered their first lopsided loss. There’s still half a season to go, but it’s clear that it’ll once again be a grind to make a postseason appearance.
“I don’t like to say, ‘We’re alright,’” Weddle said. “We’re not alright. We just got blasted. … We’re 4-4 – an average team. We just got blown out. I wouldn’t say it’s rock bottom, but we have to look at ourselves and get back to work.”
Making matters worse Sunday is that the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) both won. With both on the schedule (at home) in the next two games, respectively, a quick turnaround is paramount.
But the Ravens weren’t in chalk-it-up-to-a-bad-game mode after this loss. They know there are issues that must be fixed and a lot of hard work to do if they’re going to right the ship – both physically and mentally.
“This is obviously going to be a really tough test for us,” Flacco said. “We’re going to see what we’re made of here, see how we rally and how we come together as a team.”
“There’s obviously a bigger threat now to let this stuff affect you mentally and let it affect the team and how we’re gelling together. We have to combat that by being ourselves and being as tough as we possibly can.”
“Look at yourself, don’t get emotional, don’t get sensitive,” Weddle added. “This is the National Football League. Get coached up, look at the things you didn’t do well, correct them and move on.”
The Ravens entered Sunday’s game with the NFL’s third-best scoring differential. They had the No. 1-ranked defense and No. 9-ranked offense. That should be a combination that wins a lot of games.
But here the Ravens sit at 4-4, third place in the AFC North.
“Knowing the talent that we have in there and really the way we’ve been playing overall, I am a little bit [shocked],” Flacco said. “Situationally, game-by-game, I think you would look at us and think we’re pretty good.
“But it is what it is. There’s no lying in this league. You are what your record says you are, and that’s the bottom line.”
Check out the best images from Sunday's Week 8 game in Carolina.