Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun
The Ravens played a thrilling game against one of their chief rivals Sunday. Steve Smith Sr. delivered one of the most ferocious performances in franchise history. The lead flipped four times in the fourth quarter. A truly magnificent player, A.J. Green, dealt the finishing blow.
It was an honorable defeat.
But the glum faces in the losing locker room conveyed how little comfort that was as the Ravens contemplated their first 0-3 start ever.
This team has made the playoffs six times in seven seasons, and the players came out of training camp fully expecting to make it seven in eight. Some analysts picked them to win the Super Bowl, and that didn’t strike anyone as an unrealistic goal.
But with this loss to the Bengals, one marred by 13 penalties and another set of glaring defensive miscues, the postseason went from an unlikely possibility to a far-fetched fantasy.
No team since 1998 has started the season 0-3 and gone on to make the playoffs. We’ve seen nothing from the 2015 Ravens to suggest they’ll be the ones to defy history.
Surely they’ll do their best to ignore the big picture and chip away at their problems one week at a time. Professional athletes excel at that brand of perspective, and the Ravens have always been better at it than most.
“You process it by going on to the next game; that’s what you do,” coach John Harbaugh said afterward.
But this team’s desperation was there to see and hear. It was apparent when Harbaugh went for a fake punt from his own 27-yard line in the first half. It was apparent when linebacker C.J. Mosley spoke of “soul searching” in a post-game press conference. It was apparent when cornerback Jimmy Smith said he was too emotional to speak in the locker room.
The Ravens thought they were one kind of team going into the season. Their record now says they’re something else.