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2004 season

High hopes end in major disappointment

A team predicted by many to be Super Bowl bound fails to make playoffs

By Steve DeClue

Special to baltimoresun.com

August 1, 2005

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A year in which many experts predicted a Super Bowl appearance for the Ravens resulted in a tumultuous season that saw the Ravens watching playoff football in January.

The season began with a stunning 20-3 loss to Cleveland. The Ravens rebounded to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, knocking starting quarterback Tommy Maddox out of the game on a play that would have a major effect on the division race.

The Ravens then beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-9, before losing a home game on Monday Night Football to the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24.

The Ravens responded by winning five of their next six with their only loss coming at Philadelphia by just five points without Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap. A victory over the Washington Redskins showed the Ravens big-play ability with a blocked punt for a touchdown by Ed Reed and punt return for a touchdown from B.J. Sams being the difference in the 17-10 win.

Injuries became a huge issue throughout the season, with a number of starters missing time. Peter Boulware missed the entire season with knee and toe injuries, as did Dale Carter with a blood clot. Heap missed 11 games with a sprained ankle while Jamal Lewis was out four games because of a drug-related suspension and sprained ankle. Ogden and Deion Sanders both missed significant time. Even Ray Lewis missed the final game of the season with a broken wrist.

When punter Dave Zastudil went down with an injury in the first half against the New York Jets, backup quarterback Kordell Stewart was forced to take over the punting duties. The Ravens were able to rally for a 20-17 overtime victory, a game that served as a breakout performance for Kyle Boller. Boller threw two second-half touchdown passes to rookie Clarence Moore to carry the Ravens to victory.

However, the team stumbled down the stretch, losing four of five to see its Super Bowl hopes disappear.

The slide started on a rain-soaked, mud-covered Gillette Stadium field to the defending champion New England Patriots. The Ravens went to halftime tied at 3, but the team was outscored 21-0 in the second half. The loss virtually eliminated the Ravens from the AFC North title race with the Steelers leading by three games with just five to play.

The Ravens secondary underwent a complete meltdown in a 27-26 loss to Cincinnati. The Ravens led by 17 points in the fourth quarter before Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh took over, combining for three touchdowns against a confused and overmatched group of defensive backs.

The team kept its playoff hopes alive with a win over the New York Giants that left the Ravens in a position to control their own destiny. The defense was able to force six turnovers against a rattled Eli Manning.

Losses at Indianapolis and Pittsburgh sealed their fate as the Ravens offense sputtered. The team scored a combined 17 points in the two games after scoring 37 and 26 points the previous two weeks. Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers replacement at QB for Maddox, threw two touchdowns against the Ravens in Week 16 and went undefeated in the regular season to lead the Steelers to the AFC Championship game.

The team concluded the season with a 30-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins, which at the time kept their faint wild card hopes alive. The Ravens (9-7) were officially eliminated from playoff contention later that day when the Denver Broncos defeated the Indianapolis Colts.

The Ravens were among the biggest underachievers of the 2004 NFL season, and it was certainly one of the most disappointing years in franchise history.

How will the Ravens respond in 2005?

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