The Ravens went into Sunday's game with plenty to play for and didn't come close to looking like a team that needed a win.
The end result was an ugly, demoralizing 41-7 loss to the Patriots that left the Baltimore locker room seeming a little on edge. Quarterback Joe Flacco expected better.
"It's disappointing. You know, we're used to going out there and playing well when we need to when playoffs are on the line," he said. "We came out today hungry and ready to go get ourselves into the playoffs or make that next step towards it, and we just didn't do it."
The Ravens outgained the Patriots in total yardage 358-300, but never looked too competent offensively. Their only score came on a 1-yard touchdown run by Flacco, who passed for 260 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions while taking four sacks.
Flacco did set the team's single-season record for both completions (332) and passing attempts (564) in the contest, breaking the records set by Vinny Testaverde in 1996. But Flacco was only six days removed from hurting his left knee against the Lions and was not at his best.
He refused to blame the knee for his performance, however.
"I probably didn't have the same burst, but I felt good. I felt like I could move on it and run on it and do all kinds of things. It held up really well," Flacco said. "... (The knee brace) didn't affect me. I would have liked to have played better, but the brace had nothing to do with anything. I fell down moving out of the pocket to my left. I think my knee's a little bit bent when I'm in there when I'm taped up, and I just kind of misstepped and just totally whiffed on the turf. It was just really unathletic. But the brace didn't affect anything. My knee felt great."
Part of what transpired Sunday had to do with how the Patriots started the contest. They ran out to a 14-0 lead just 10:09 in and never looked back. The closest Baltimore got was within 20-7, but New England answered with 21 unanswered points in the last 2:05, 14 off Tyrod Taylor turnovers.
The early deficit didn't help things at all.
"Yeah, you know we've been in it before. Even last year when we won here against those guys, we were in a hole. We went down 13-0 in that game. We never lost confidence in getting ourselves back in the game," Flacco said. "Even at the end there, we put seven on the board and it's 20-7, and we're driving back down. We just throw four straight incompletions. We really had some room out there, and we were doing some good things. I mean, if we put the ball in the end zone there, who knows what happens? That didn't happen, and then a lot happened afterwards. We didn't play good enough. We got beat."
Cornerback Corey Graham seemed embarrassed by the performance as well.
"It sucked. When it came down to it, we didn't play well enough," he said. "It seemed like everything went their way and I'm not just talking about the calls, but I'm just talking about period - as far as turnovers, as far as us not getting any, as far as every little thing. It seemed like they were the better team today. They made more plays than we made and we've just got to find a way to play better football."
Justin Tucker's streak of 33 straight made field goals came to an end when he hooked a 37-yard try wide left in the fourth quarter.
He still has missed just three attempts all year and it was his first miss since Week 2. It was Tucker's first career miss inside 40 yards.
"I felt like I hit it pretty solid, I probably just turned on it a little bit," Tucker said. "It's just one of those things where of course you're going to be disappointed with the result, but I have personal experience that I can draw upon. Normally, I'd say, I'd reference somebody else coming back and overcoming adversity, but I personally was able to do this, of course, with the support of guys like Morgan (Cox) and Sam (Koch), and the hard work that we put in during the week.
"It's one of those things you just bounce back, and at this point the focus is on Cincinnati and trying to give ourselves the best chance to make a run at this thing and make sure we're playing football in January."
Running back Ray Rice ran for 40 yards to go with two catches for 23 yards, moving three yards shy of breaking Jamal Lewis' franchise record for career yards from scrimmage (9,166). This marks the fifth straight season that Rice has recorded 50 catches.
The Ravens defense didn't perform too badly, allowing 27 points. It also limited Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to 172 passing yards, his second-lowest total this season. New England's 300 yards were its fifth-fewest of the year.
Linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Daryl Smith shared a sack, and Smith now has a career-high five sacks on the season. Smith also had 11 tackles and a pass defensed. He leads the team with 118 tackles and has 19 passes defensed.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs added a sack in the contest, snapping a drought where he didn't record one in six straight games. He now has 10 on the season to lead the Ravens.
Also, defensive tackle Arthur Jones left the game with a head injury and did not return.
But even with those positive statistics, the end result was the Ravens' most lopsided home loss in team history and no more control over whether they make the playoffs.
"It was just one of those nights. They jumped out on us and it just kind of got away from us," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "... I still believe in my team - offense, defense, special teams. I believe in these guys. We've faced adversity all year. We've gotten back to the point where we're talking about the playoffs and y'all never gave us a chance, and we've still got a chance with this last game. We just need to stay as one, as a team. It's about us. Nobody believed in us but us."