Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno carries in a touchdown past Ravens defenders in the second half of the Ravens' Sunday, Dec 16, 2012 loss to the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno carries in a touchdown past Ravens defenders in the second half of the Ravens' Sunday, Dec 16, 2012 loss to the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

It was a shocking sight. Not only were the Baltimore Ravens trailing by four touchdowns midway in the third quarter, but there were empty seats. Lots of them.

The fans that remained at M&T Bank Stadium were silent - except when they were booing.

Last week, they could have called for Cam Cameron's head. They got that, and now the pressure is on the triumvirate of Jim Caldwell, Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh.

Caldwell, who replaced Cameron as offensive coordinator, was positioned upstairs in the coaches box, supposedly to have a better view of the field. What he saw was ugly.

The Ravens' worst defeat at home of the Harbaugh Era and the first home losing streak in his tenure was galling. The fan reaction was stunning.

Late in the first half, Baltimore thought it had a chance to get back into the game. Then Flacco threw that ill-advised toss that Denver's Chris Harris ran back a team-record 98 yards.

Any hope of a comeback ended.

Flacco showed impressive speed in nearly running Harris down, but it was just another example of how the Ravens came up short.

"We have to keep our eyes forward and look ahead," Flacco said.

Thanks to the fine early-season start and some luck, the Ravens are still 9-5, still leading the AFC North. Because of the weak AFC, a win against the New York Giants next Sunday or at Cincinnati in two weeks still gives them the division championship and a home playoff game.

"It feels like we're 0-14 right now," Flacco said.

It will take wins both weeks for the Raven faithful to have their faith somewhat restored. An 11-5 record wouldn't look so bad.

There was the usual brave talk from some others, though their body language said otherwise.

The Ravens are used to peaking in December, not careening.

"It's definitely uncharted territory for us, but at the same time, we're used to being in a position that we're getting ready for the playoffs, and we're one game away from that right now," Brendon Ayanbadejo said.

They've been one game away from that for three weeks. Ten wins will clinch the division, and Baltimore has been stuck on nine ever since that unlikely comeback in San Diego three weeks back.

"We've clinched playoff spots in the last week of December," Ayanbadejo said.

That's right, but the Ravens are usually playing much better at this time of the year. In the four previous Harbaugh years, the Ravens were 3-1, 2-2, 3-1 and 3-1 in December.

"It's critical anytime when you lose three times in a row," Corey Graham said.

What's gone wrong? It's not often when a winning team, even one that's lost two straight, suddenly fires its offensive coordinator. Caldwell's first game was a forgettable one, but there were huge defensive breakdowns, too.

"We're not that good of a team where you can get it done on one side of the ball," Ayanbadejo said.

Flacco will surely be blamed for that first-half pass. Harbaugh will get a share of criticism for not calling a timeout, but the Ravens defense allowed the Denver Broncos to do most anything they wanted.

The quickly emptying stadium was noticed by the players.

"The fans have high expectations," Ayenbadejo said. "The fans should hold us accountable."

Perhaps the fans have gotten spoiled. In the NFL it's not the norm for teams to make the playoffs five straight years. Even after losing their third in a row, the Ravens are in again. And an early loss will be looked upon as a failure.

"I still feel like we're going to win this division. We're still going to make noise in the playoffs," Anquan Boldin insisted. "We've just got to cut out the dumb stuff."

Boldin was the target on that Flacco pass, but he didn't want to talk about it. He was held without a reception for the first time since Oct. 23, 2005.

Next week, the Ravens play another desperate team. The Giants were shut out for the first time in 16 years on Sunday and have a tight playoff race of their own to worry about.

"We're not worried about other teams," Boldin said. "We're worried about getting ourselves together."

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