Baltimore Sun staff members give their thoughts on the Ravens' game against the New England Patriots in Week 16 of the 2013 NFL season.
Jeff Zrebiec, reporter: Given how well the Ravens were playing and the fact that they were at home, their poor performance today was pretty shocking. Joe Flacco was clearly not himself because of the sprained knee, but there are no excuses for this effort. The Ravens did not win the battle at the line of scrimmage like they had in the past against New England. The wide receivers didn't win enough individual matchups and their running backs and offensive line didn't take enough advantage of one of the league's worst run defenses. Their defense also made zero big plays and got run over, allowing the Patriots to win the game with Tom Brady being a little more than a game manager. Throw in the turnovers and the penalties and even a rare miss by Justin Tucker and you had the Ravens' worst effort all season. They don't deserve to have control of their playoff future after an effort like this one.
Aaron Wilson, reporter: As the Ravens remain alive in their pursuit of the sixth and final AFC playoff berth heading into the final week of the regular season, they just saw what a legitimate playoff team looks like. The Patriots were much more disciplined and weren't sloppy, unlike the Ravens. The offensive line didn't protect well enough for a gimpy Joe Flacco, who was clearly limited by his sprained left knee as he was unable to step into his throws the way he normally does when healthy. The wide receivers didn't win enough one-on-one battles. The defense was a step behind Tom Brady all game, failing to pressure him often enough or react quickly to play-action fakes, and got trucked repeatedly by power back LeGarrette Blount. Even kicker Justin Tucker had an off-game, missing his first field goal since the second week of the season as his streak of 33 consecutive field goals ended.
Matt Vensel, reporter: This was not the kind of performance I expected to see from the Ravens with so much on the line, but it was clear from the start that this was not their night. All the early bounces went the Patriots' way, and the offense could get nothing going with Joe Flacco hobbled and the offensive line failing to protect him. I thought Flacco looked much better in the second half -- he was even able to make some plays on the run -- but it was too little too late. The good news is that the Ravens can still get into the playoffs with a win next weekend and a little help, but they will need Flacco's knee to be in better shape by then.
Childs Walker, reporter: Magic is an unreliable quality in professional sports, and for the first time in a month, the Ravens couldn't find any. Instead, they faced the cold reality that Joe Flacco wasn't healthy enough to give them a good chance against a Patriots team that made very few mistakes. Flacco's knee has to be a worry going into next weekend's do-or-die game against the Cincinnati Bengals, who haven't lost at home all season.
Peter Schmuck, columnist: Suddenly, the postseason looks like a very tall order again. The Ravens need a ton of help next week from teams that are either in the playoffs or packing their bags. The way they played Sunday, it might not make any difference anyway. Gimpy quarterback. Inexplicable play calling. Sketchy officiating. Just a great day all around.
Ron Fritz, sports editor: Just a baffling game by the Ravens. They were flat and mistake-prone, and looked like a team playing out the regular season instead of one trying to reach the playoffs. You can't feel that confident going into next week's game at Cincinnati that the Ravens will rise up. They are just horrible on the road, and the Bengals will still have something to play for.