The Ravens need a little hope if they want to return to the postseason

Ravens fans are living on the hopes of last season.

After the team's 24-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, there isn't much left. You never give up on a team in the unpredictable world of the NFL, especially with eight games remaining, but there hasn't been much to build on.

The secondary continues to blow coverages and the running game is pathetic. Except for receiver Torrey Smith, the Ravens don't have any consistent impact players on offense and John Harbaugh is having his worst year as a head coach. Even punter Sam Koch is struggling.

Worse yet, the Ravens lost to the Browns. That's almost unforgivable.

So now that the Ravens (3-5) have hit rock bottom, the hope is that they can turn it around like last season when they lost four of their last five games and still went on to win the Super Bowl.

OK, it's a stretch, but what else do you have? San Antonio has "Remember The Alamo!" and Baltimore now has "Remember New Orleans."

The Ravens need more miracles like the New York Giants had in 2007 when they won four of their last seven regular season games and then went on to win the Super Bowl. They need a big turnaround like the Kansas City Chiefs that went from worst last year to first this season.

It doesn't have to be so magical, just modest improvements. Unlike Cleveland or the Miami Dolphins, which have gotten better throughout the season, the Ravens haven't and that's disappointing.

They're falling like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There was great anticipation for Sunday's game because the Ravens had shown some minor improvement offensively in their previous game against Pittsburgh. With a week off because of the bye, there was good reason to believe they would get better against their old whipping boys, the Browns.

Instead, the Ravens laid another egg, and the game left you as lifeless and lethargic as the Ravens were on the field.

Hope is running out.

Between three running backs, the Ravens had 30 yards on 18 carries versus the Browns. Running back Ray Rice looked slow and tired and quarterback Joe Flacco continued to show that he can't carry a team. Offensive line play was poor and the defensive backs still haven't gotten the memo on when they are playing zone versus man to man. Except for linebacker Terrell Suggs, no one makes big plays on defense which is why this unit can't get off the field in the fourth quarter.

And then there is Harbaugh, who can't be accused of having the Midas touch this year. He failed to call a timeout near the end of the first half Sunday just like he did at the end of the game against Pittsburgh. He blew a challenge in Denver and then gambled and lost on the running game against the Green Bay Packers.

"We have to start winning close games," Harbaugh said.

If he made better game day decisions, they might….but that's why everything is so disheartening at this point.

The Ravens went through a stretch like this last year but back then they had tough guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. They had the nasty boys, Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard. Those guys weren't going to go down easy and Boldin and Pollard weren't going to hide when fans started criticizing them or the coaching staff.

Some of the Ravens hid Sunday after the game. They were more elusive in the locker room than they were on the field. If there is a question about leadership it will be answered now during these tough times.

With this team, the energy level and passion are low. The Ravens need a spark, but no one knows where it will come from. All that leaves is the hope from last year.

In their final five games of the 2012 regular season, the Ravens lost to Pittsburgh, Washington and Denver and then beat the Giants before losing to Cincinnati. At that point, it was a basic conclusion that the Ravens were going to be one and done in the postseason.

But Flacco got hot, Boldin and Jacoby Jones were spectacular and an aging defense held on long enough for the Ravens to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Ah, that was a great memory. Here is hoping that they can pull it off again this year. Right now, that's all there is.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

 
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