Ravens 'Soul Searching' After 0-3 Start


The Ravens are in unchartered waters, and they're mighty choppy.

For the first time in franchise history, Baltimore is 0-3 to start a season. A team that entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations is now behind the eight ball.

And after yet another late-game, brutal loss, this time by a 28-24 score to division rival Cincinnati at home, the Ravens are taking a good, hard look in the mirror – particularly on defense.

"It's very tough as a team. It's even tougher when you're on defense," linebacker C.J. Mosley said.

"We have to do some soul searching. We built a great foundation in training camp and coming into the season. So far it hasn't worked out that way. But we didn't waste all that time in training camp with sweat, blood and tears to have any cracks in our foundation."

What makes the three losses tougher to swallow is that wins were within grasp in all of them.

In the season opener in Denver, the defense allowed a 17-play drive that ate up 11 minutes in the fourth quarter. Then the offense had two potential game-winning passes go wrong, as one bounced off wide receiver Steve Smith's hands and another intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore was intercepted.

In Oakland, the Ravens had a chance to take a seven-point lead, but Smith couldn't get both feet down in the end zone when he was wide open. The Ravens settled for a field goal and a three-point lead, and then the defense allowed an 80-yard drive to quarterback Derek Carr to win the game with 26 seconds left.

Sunday's home opener against Cincinnati played out much like the week before in Oakland. The Ravens offense played from behind for much of the day – in part because of a "wasted" first half, according to quarterback Joe Flacco.

But when the offense clicked in the second half and took two fourth-quarter leads, the defense gave it up both times with 80-yard drives by the Bengals.

One drive took just one strike to wide receiver A.J. Green screaming down the middle of the field for an 80-yard score one play after the Ravens took their first lead of the game. The second was a methodical six-play march in just one minute, 46 seconds by Cincinnati.

While the offense had a rough first half and has settled for field goals too often near the goal line, the defense's collapse in another high-scoring shootout has the Ravens' historically proud unit puzzled.

Multiple Ravens talked about the team's mentality in such situations. Baltimore has lost a lot of leadership on that side of the ball, and is relying on youth throughout the unit. It took a big blow when Terrell Suggs (Achilles) was lost for the year in Week 1.

"You've got to dig deep. It's got to mean that much to you," said outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who gave the Ravens their first lead of the game with a sack/strip of Andy Dalton that allowed Mosley to return the fumble 41 yards for a touchdown.

"I just know that it comes with competing," cornerback Rashaan Melvin said. "It's understanding that there's four quarters in a football game. Once we're up, we've got to stay up."

Now the Ravens have to find a way to move on, despite their open wounds. They have a quick turnaround before what will be one of their most challenging games of the year on the road in Pittsburgh.

Dumervil said the manner in which the Ravens have lost makes it tougher to move past. But that's exactly what he knows they must do if they're going to salvage their season and keep their playoff hopes alive.

"In this league, when you're 0-3, nobody says, 'Man, you know what? It could have been 3-0,'" Dumervil said. "We're 0-3 and that's what the print says and that's the facts. We have 13 games left though. This is a must-win for sure."

When the schedule was first released, it was clear the Ravens would have a tough opening stretch. A West Coast trip to Denver to start things was a challenge, but few would have predicted a loss in Oakland. Then two games against division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are always dogfights.

The middle of Baltimore's schedule softens a bit, but the Ravens could be in a deep hole by that point if they don't play better and get a win in Pittsburgh.

The last time a team began the year at 0-3 and made the playoffs was in 1998, when the Buffalo Bills came storming back. A team hasn't reached the postseason after an 0-4 start since 1992 (San Diego).

"We've got to do it one game at a time, and that's the only way that you're going to keep a positive mindset – if you put the last three games behind you and forget about them," Flacco said. "It's going to take time. We've had opportunities to win each one of these three games, and we're just not good enough to be good in crunch-time situations, and it's getting us beat."

Flacco also pointed to the team's mindset as being critical during this stretch.

"We have to get our minds in check and make sure that we want to go out there and win a football game," Flacco said. "That's what it's all about. It's going out there and playing for the guy beside you, picking him up when needed and winning a football game, no matter the circumstance.

"Right now, it probably comes down to the fact that we're not believing in ourselves enough, and we're not envisioning winning those football games. We've got to turn that around."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content