By the time Cleveland Browns kicker Travis Coons had sent a 32-yard field goal through the uprights in overtime and ended a game that Ravens coach John Harbaugh said his team had no business losing, many of the fans at M&T Bank Stadium had already filed toward the exits.
Why wait around to witness the possible death knell of the home team's once-promising season?
Even as the Ravens built a sizable lead against a team that they recently have dominated, even as they erased a fourth-quarter deficit and forced overtime with another late field goal by Justin Tucker, there was an air of inevitability that hung around the game and now hovers over the season.
It might have lifted for one week with a victory over the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers, but the reality hit home again in the Ravens' stunning 33-30 overtime loss to the Browns in front of an announced 71,046, a game that was tough to watch from beginning to end.
The Ravens are going nowhere fast. They are 1-4 for the first time in franchise history, buried in last place in the AFC North, and their quarterback reiterated what he's said after each loss and what could be the working title of a story about the team's 2015 season.
"We just weren't good enough," quarterback Joe Flacco said after a game in which he ran for two touchdowns, threw for another and led an offense that didn't turn the ball over on 12 possessions.
It sounds so simple, especially coming out of the mouth of the franchise's understated quarterback. Yet, it's also so true. Consider the following:
- Winning at home used to be a given, but these Ravens are 0-2 at M&T Bank Stadium. It marks just the second time in the John Harbaugh era that the team has lost two straight home games.
- Beating the Browns had been something the Ravens could almost bank on twice a year. Before Sunday, they had vanquished them 13 times in 14 meetings with Harbaugh as the coach and Flacco as the quarterback. This year’s team allowed Cleveland to win in Baltimore for the first time since 2007.
"A very disappointing loss, one that shouldn't have happened," Harbaugh said. "They made the plays they needed to make, we did not. And that's on us."
Beating up on journeyman quarterbacks used to be a rite of passage for Ravens' defense. Instead, this year's version — thinned considerably by injuries — made Browns quarterback Josh McCown, a journeyman playing for his seventh NFL team, look like Bernie Kosar in his prime.
McCown completed 36 of 51 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for a score. The passing yards were the third most ever by a Ravens opponent and the most in Browns franchise history.
With tight end Gary Barnidge beating whoever the Ravens put on him to the tune of eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, McCown led the Browns to points on six of their final eight full drives, overcoming multiple deficits.
"There were a few things that cost us this game, and I'm the first to say, I put this on the defense as a whole," said Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, one of the few bright spots on a unit that allowed 505 yards. "We didn't come through today. We were supposed to show up, and we did not show up in the second half."
Remember when the Ravens used to throw their defense on the field and salivate at the thought of closing out a game? Now, the exercise foreshadows impending doom.
The Ravens have had a late fourth-quarter lead in three of their losses, and a late third-quarter lead in the other. Against the Browns (2-4), they led 14-3 late in the second quarter, 21-9 midway through the third and 27-22 with under six minutes remaining in the fourth. They also got the ball first in overtime but went three-and-out and the Browns took the ball and drove 51 yards on 12 plays against an inept and injury-plagued Ravens defense before Coons jogged onto the field and nailed his fourth field goal.
"We just couldn't make that one more play that we needed," said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who caught four passes for 78 yards, all in the first half. With Steve Smith Sr. out, no other Ravens receiver had more than two catches. "Even when we got the lead, we didn't do a good job of just finishing."
There are a lot of things that the Ravens don't do well. They commit way too many penalties, adding 12 more for 98 yards Sunday, including a hands-to-the face penalty by linebacker Jason Babin that prolonged a Browns touchdown drive.
Their offense is still lacking playmakers and is far too inconsistent. They finished the game with 181 rushing yards, but in the second half and overtime, Flacco had one completion to a wide receiver — Marlon Brown, for no yards.
"Things just didn't go our way today," Brown said.
Justin Forsett scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, but a failed two-point conversion kept the Ravens' lead at 27-22. After the Browns answered on McCown's 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaiah Crowell, the Ravens had second-and-goal from Cleveland's 4-yard line, but ultimately settled for Tucker's game-tying 23-yard field goal. The failure to get in the end zone loomed large later on.
As for the defense, where do you even start? The pass rush was nonexistent at key moments, especially after Elvis Dumervil went down with a groin injury. Linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley were repeatedly beaten in coverage by Browns tight ends and backs, and Smith missed a tackle on Crowell's touchdown run.
The Ravens, who played most of the game without cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Will Davis, were burned in blitzes and picked apart when they went to a zone. Even when they were in position to make a play, bad stuff happened, like safety Will Hill deflecting a ball that ultimately landed between Barnidge's legs before the tight end pulled it in for an 18-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
It was that kind of day. It's been that kind of season for the Ravens.
"We're disappointed, because we know what kind of team we are," Mosley said. "We know how we work, and we're definitely better than 1-4. We've just got to put our foot down and prove that. We play hard, but we've just got to finish as a team. And like I said, when I point out myself, certain players have got to do a better job at what we do"