In yesterday's 21-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens suffered through everything that has gone so horribly wrong this season in freeze-frame clarity, crashing at the midway point with an exasperating thud.
If the Ravens needed any more embarrassment, their third straight loss dropped them to 2-6, matching their worst record ever halfway into a season. A team that trumpeted itself as a Super Bowl contender just two months ago, the Ravens now must worry about their division, and it has nothing to do with having sole possession of last place in the AFC North.
"When you're stopping them, you've got to come back and score points," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "At some point, [the Bengals are] going to score, regardless of how you play. It just gets frustrating; every week we lose the same way."
Rolle's finger was pointing squarely at the Ravens' woeful offense, which heard an increasing amount of boos after each drive from the M&T Bank Stadium crowd.
The Ravens reached the red zone on half of their eight drives and came away with three field goals. They ran 16 plays inside the 20-yard line and never got past the Bengals' 4.
This ineptness has been status quo. The Ravens have scored one touchdown in their past 15 quarters and none in their past seven.
"I can do the math. You can't trade sevens for three, plain and simple," Ravens coach Brian Billick said, referring to the fact that the Bengals scored three touchdowns while the Ravens settled for three field goals. "If you get an opportunity to score or stop them, you can't trade touchdowns for field goals, and that's what we did today."
The defense almost bailed out the Ravens early in the third quarter, when Cincinnati led 14-6.
After Adalius Thomas' hit forced Bengals tight end Matt Schobel to fumble, safety Will Demps picked up the ball and ran 58 yards to the end zone. But an inadvertent referee's whistle blew the play dead upon Demps' recovery, which took away the apparent touchdown.
"It was an error," referee Jeff Triplette said of the quick whistle. "By rule, there is nothing we can do."
Demps simply said he didn't hear the whistle, but cornerback Chris McAlister didn't take the same diplomatic tone.
"It's hard playing against the refs, too," McAlister said. "That's what it boils down to. Blowing the whistle early, them not seeing the ball come out. ... I don't know how they didn't see the ball come out early. It's been the saga of our season. It happens every time we step on the field."
The Ravens believe they have received questionable calls since their 21-penalty debacle a month ago in Detroit, where two of their players were ejected for bumping into officials.
"Just take away these guys' stripes," McAlister said. "They never played the game; you shouldn't let them call it."
Instead of scoring a touchdown off a turnover, the Ravens went three-and-out and punted, another shortcoming that came back to haunt them against the first-place Bengals (7-2).
"This game could have changed the season around for us," quarterback Anthony Wright said. "We had high hopes about this game. That one play could have changed the whole complexion of the game."
Wright injured his left ankle late in the third quarter, and Kordell Stewart came in to spark the offense for one series. He ran three times for 30 of the drive's 50 yards and nearly caught a potential touchdown pass on a trick play.