Baltimore Sun staff members give their thoughts on the Ravens' game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 of the 2013 NFL season.
Jeff Zrebiec, reporter: The Ravens' final game of 2013 proved to be a microcosm of their season. They made a slew of mistakes, were inconsistent on both offense and defense, settled for field goals when they needed touchdowns and couldn't get off the field when they needed a stop. Credit the team for making no excuses. To a man, they said they weren't good enough and didn't deserve to get into the playoffs. I concur. There should be no "what ifs." These Ravens had plenty of chances, plenty of things going in their favor. The Bengals tried to hand them the game at times today, and the Miami Dolphins did their part by getting dominated at home by the New York Jets. But as quarterback Joe Flacco said, the Ravens simply weren't good enough.
Aaron Wilson, reporter: Given a prime opportunity to earn a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive year as Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions and the New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens failed to capitalize again and again. It was a familiar storyline at Paul Brown Stadium as the red-zone offense was stagnant again, going 1-for-3 today and 1-for-9 over the past three games. The offensive line failed to protect a hobbled Joe Flacco, and the running game was practically nonexistent. Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil disappeared, with Suggs fooled repeatedly on zone-read plays by Dalton. Finishing a mediocre 8-8, the Ravens head into the offseason with serious question marks surrounding Flacco after a 22-interception season that breaks Vinny Testaverde's single-season record established during the Ravens' inaugural season in 1996, a running game in disrepair and a defense that fails to make key stops. The front office and coaching staff will have their work cut out for them during the offseason. This team has a lot of holes to fix.
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Matt Vensel, reporter: Andy Dalton and the Bengals tried their hardest to keep the door open for the Ravens, but with the season on the line, the Ravens were plagued by the same issues in recent weeks that have plagued them throughout the season. The offensive line was a mess, giving Joe Flacco little chance at elevating his team to a victory. The pass rush was non-existent, and the Ravens defenders were pushovers in the red zone again. And we saw way too much of Justin Tucker for the Ravens to beat a good team like the Bengals. Still, credit should go to Flacco and the Ravens for pulling themselves off the ropes in the second half and putting up a fight. Unfortunately, the Ravens just weren't good enough to get it done Sunday and throughout this season as a whole.
Childs Walker, reporter: The Bengals did their best to keep the Ravens in this game, with interceptions and a laughably shanked punt. But the Ravens couldn't seize the opportunity because of the same fatally flawed offense that has undermined them all season. The offensive line couldn't protect a hurting Joe Flacco. The running game vanished one more time. Flacco threw more interceptions than touchdown passes. This was a team that never fixed its greatest problems, even during the winning streak that carried it into contention. So we can't be surprised with the end result.
Peter Schmuck, columnist: The Ravens lost for the same reason they have spent the season just this side of being a playoff-caliber team. They dominated the first quarter, and the Bengals showed with just one play why field goals are not enough. That said, the Ravens overcame a lot this year to take the season down to the final quarter, and Joe Flacco proved again that he is one tough hombre. Look for a big O-line overhaul during the offseason.
Ron Fritz, sports editor: No matter how many times Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton tried to hand this game to the Ravens, Baltimore simply wasn't good enough to take advantage. This is an incredibly disappointing loss, given the New York Jets' win over the Miami Dolphins. Once again, the defense gave up a critical touchdown drive after the offense fought back to tie the game at 17. Do you feel good going forward that this team will be a playoff team in 2014? The Bengals are loaded, and the Steelers will get better simply by getting injured players back. The Ravens will need to add playmakers on offense and defense. It's going to be a long offseason.