Midway through the 2011 season, the Ravens flew out to Seattle to play a young Seahawks team they were expected to defeat fairly easily. The Ravens were 6-2 and were a popular preseason pick to make the playoffs. The Seahawks were just 2-6 after somehow sneaking into the playoffs at 7-9 the season before.
Things played out differently, and the Seahawks began to build momentum with their surprising 22-17 win.
In that loss, which was met with much criticism in Baltimore, the Ravens fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter. They struggled to run the ball early against head coach Pete Carroll’s stout defensive front before abandoning the run altogether when trailing. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw 52 pass attempts, then a career high. And kickoff returner David Reed lost a pair of first-half fumbles that led to field goals.
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With defensive end Chris Clemons getting pressure on the edges and defensive backs Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor blanketing receivers, the Seahawks defense smothered the Ravens. Their defense was pretty mediocre at that point, at least statistically speaking, but that game was a sign of things to come for that unit.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks ran out the clock with running back Marshawn Lynch, who ground out 109 yards and a touchdown, to seal the victory.
The game was another frustrated road loss for the Ravens that season, but they bounced back from it to finish 12-4 and win their first AFC North title in five seasons.
The game was more significant for the Seahawks, though. After upsetting an AFC contender in the Ravens, they won four of their next five games and lost a couple of tight divisional games to finish the season with a 7-9 record. That momentum carried into the 2012 season -- it also helped that they upgraded at quarterback, going from Tarvaris Jackson to poised rookie Russell Wilson -- and they went 12-4 and made the playoffs. A year after that, they were crowned Super Bowl champions.
It certainly didn’t seem like it at the time, but on that sloppy November day during the 2011 season, the Ravens were tested and beaten by a championship team that was in its formative stages.