In what has been perhaps the most miserable season in their history, the Ravens had lost a handful of starters before and their share of gut-wrenching games.
But they always talked about never losing their pride ... until now.
Unable to hold a 10-point halftime lead, the Ravens did the unthinkable, losing to the previously winless Miami Dolphins, 22-16, in overtime at a half-empty Dolphin Stadium yesterday.
The Dolphins (1-13) managed to sidestep history, and the Ravens (4-10) tried to absorb their place in infamy.
Three plays after Ravens kicker Matt Stover hooked a potential game-winning field-goal attempt, little-known Miami receiver Greg Camarillo caught a short pass over the middle and out-sprinted Jamaine Winborne for a 64-yard touchdown.
While the Dolphins mobbed one another in the end zone to celebrate their first win since Dec. 10, 2006, the Ravens walked past them and headed into a sobering, silent locker room where they looked at one another in disbelief.
"We've done a great job of holding on to pride, but this is a hard blow," guard Jason Brown said.
The Ravens have only themselves to blame for extending their team-record losing streak to eight games.
Devard Darling should have held on to a deep pass over the middle that would have put the Ravens at the Miami 14-yard line and given them a chance to increase a 13-10 lead.
Coach Brian Billick could have chosen to go for the win instead of the tie with 12 seconds left in regulation, when the Ravens had fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Still, the most shocking turn of events was the 44-yard overtime miss by Stover, the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history.
But Stover's fifth failed attempt of the season -- a 50-yard try was blocked in the first half -- made sense to running back Willis McGahee in a morbid way.
"The way our season has been going, I wasn't surprised," he said.
It doesn't seem as if the season can unravel any further than it did yesterday.
The Ravens lost to a team that just heard its owner is thinking about selling. They lost to Miami quarterback Cleo Lemon, who got his first victory since playing at Arkansas State in 2000.
And they lost to Camarillo, who had three catches for 109 yards after having one previous catch all season.
The Ravens were playing without both first-string cornerbacks ( Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister), and they lost linebacker Ray Lewis (dislocated finger) in the third quarter. But the Dolphins were playing with their third quarterback and running back of the season.
After the game, Billick was defensive when asked if this loss was an embarrassment.
"I'll bank on character anytime," Billick said. "It doesn't mean a lot to [the media] sometimes, but it does to me. I'll count on character on this team."
The Ravens showed resiliency in the fourth quarter after the Dolphins took their first lead at 16-13.
With the ball at their own 40, the Ravens had no timeouts and rookie quarterback Troy Smith, who replaced Kyle Boller (mild concussion) midway through the fourth. Smith quickly drove the Ravens downfield, completing four of eight passes for 45 yards. His last pass went 9 yards to Darling, who dived for the ball at the Dolphins' 1.
Faced with fourth-and-goal and 12 seconds left in regulation, Billick said he was tempted to go for the game-winning touchdown instead of the tying field goal.
"All or nothing in our circumstance, why not?" Billick said. "But we had just driven the length of the field, and there are some things to be drawn from going into overtime and doing those things. Yeah, it would have been fun to try."
Smith said he lobbied for the Ravens to go for the touchdown. McGahee was the only other Raven who publicly said he thought the Ravens should have tried to win the game in regulation.
"I wanted a chance," said McGahee, who ran for 104 yards on 29 carries.
The Ravens, though, had another shot to win in overtime when they drove 54 yards and sent Stover onto the field.
But Stover missed wide left because he "overkicked" it.
"I'll be all over SportsCenter ... oh well," he said. "I've been this guy that has won many a game for this team and don't want to be [the guy]that loses one, but it happened today."
Just 1:41 later, Camarillo caught a short pass near midfield and outran the Ravens' defense to the end zone.
Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said he had seen the Dolphins run that same play three times.
"He was going in motion, they're running that angle route and I'm hoping that we're going to stop it," Mason said. "But it didn't happen."
It's unknown how much more the Ravens can unravel.
Two weeks ago, the Ravens nearly became the first team to knock off the unbeaten New England Patriots. Now, they're trying to swallow one of the most humiliating games in their existence.
"Nope, it's not a low point," linebacker Bart Scott said. "It's two bad football teams playing, and they won."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun