Among the surest things in the NFL for five years was the Ravens being in the playoffs.
That won’t be case this year, as Baltimore will sit out the postseason for the first time since 2007 after losing 34-17 to the Bengals on Sunday.
The Ravens dropped their last two games of the season after winning four in a row and they end the campaign with an 8-8 record. That means Baltimore will be playoff bystanders for the first time under coach John Harbaugh and with Joe Flacco at quarterback.
The Ravens become the second straight Super Bowl champ to miss the playoffs the following year, the fourth since 2006 and 15th overall.
The Steelers’ win over the Browns combined with the Ravens’ loss is what proved to be the final nail, but being outscored 75-24 over the last two contests certainly didn’t help.
Because the Dolphins lost to the Jets, Baltimore would’ve earned its sixth postseason berth in a row with a win. But the Ravens couldn’t get it done.
The Bengals (11-5) outgained them 392-222 and capitalized on three Flacco interceptions in the fourth quarter, turning them into 10 of their 17 unanswered points to end the contest. The first seven points of that run to the finish, the ones which broke a 17-17 tie, were produced by a spectacular 90-yard drive by Cincinnati.
On the other side, the Ravens couldn’t take greater advantage of Andy Dalton’s four interceptions, only converting them into nine points.
Flacco went 30-for-50 for 192 yards, a touchdown and the three picks to finish the year with 19 touchdown passes and a career-worst 22 interceptions.
Dennis Pitta made eight catches for 63 yards while Ray Rice added seven catches for 35 yards (but rushed for just 15).
Torrey Smith was held to three catches for 27 yards, finishing the year with 65 receptions for 1,128 yards - the second-most in a single Ravens season. He ended 73 yards shy of the team’s single-season receiving yards record, held by Michael Jackson.
Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, James Ihedigbo and Corey Graham came up with the Ravens’ interceptions in the finale. But the defense appeared to tire at the end, especially after holding things in check to help the team come back from down 17-6. The 90-yard go-ahead drive appeared to take the wind out of the unit.
Baltimore’s offense struggled for much of the year and certainly will garner some offseason attention. The team could use another elite receiver to join Smith, Jacoby Jones, Pitta and Marlon Brown. Above all, the Ravens will have to address a running game that never got off the ground, averaging 83 yards per game.
The defense was a pleasant surprise, entering the final week ranked among the NFL’s top 10. But the Ravens are sure to do some tinkering on that side of the ball, especially with certain key players due raises.
The Ravens will have many offseason questions to face, and some that haven’t even cropped up yet. But we’ll start addressing those in the coming days, far earlier than the team hoped to be thinking about packing up their lockers and heading home.