Despite what seems to be a popular opinion around town, the Ravens haven't quit or shut it down for the remainder of the 2015 season. They just aren't a very good football team.
That mindset is something head coach John Harbaugh will have to guard against for the rest of the season. There is no indication that this team isn't playing hard. In fact, they've been in every game until the end, but they don't have playmakers.
It's really that simple.
"I just feel like when the game is on the line we are not making the plays on both sides of the ball, whether it is us on offense or them on defense," Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. "That is the number one thing in my mind, us not making plays in the fourth quarter to win games."
It is one thing to question a player's skill or challenge a coach's decision-making, but to challenge a team's integrity makes it personal.
Quitters don't return earlier than expected and play with broken bones in their back, like veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. did. And they don't run as hard as Justin Forsett in the fourth period when the game is on the line, or chase down quarterbacks like Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy late in the game.
The Ravens try, but they don't have major impact players. Unfortunately, if they can't make big plays against San Francisco, then who can they beat?
That's the million-dollar question.
For the remainder of the season, it's all about attitude and preparing for next year. Any hopes of the Ravens making a postseason run were virtually eliminated in Sunday's 25-20 loss.
Miracles do exist, but there won't be any this winter, not for the Ravens. The 49ers were worse than the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, and the Ravens still lost.
The future doesn't look pretty. Arizona is going to be pretty angry after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and the Cardinals will want to make a strong statement when they host the Ravens on Monday night.
The major problem for the Ravens is the same as last year — any team with a good quarterback and receivers will light up the secondary. But they have a similar problem on offense, which also lacks playmakers. They have a team full of No. 3 receivers with little speed and a running back who lacks breakaway ability.
"The guys who can get the job done, you find a way to put them in position to get the job done, not just throw plays out there," Harbaugh said. "You throw plays out there that are gonna work, that got a shot to work. And practice 'em and practice 'em and get really precise at executing.
"That's what I keep chasing. Now, it's not like we're out here and we can't compete. We're right there, and we got heart like you can't believe, obviously. We got a bunch more games to play and there's a lot of wins in front of us for the season, and we'll find a way to get 'em."
Right now, the Ravens can't find a way. They are actually inventing ways to lose games, like not challenging a play late in the game or failing to stop a drive at the end of the half or regulation because of a missed tackle or a penalty.
Maybe it's the karma thing, where losing become contagious
Certainly the Ravens have been hurt by injuries and the early-season schedule, which includes four West Coast road games, has been tough.
But the Ravens continue to hurt themselves. Quarterback Joe Flacco has been inconsistent all season and had two turnovers against San Francisco Sunday, including one of the worst interceptions in franchise history.
Smith, the team's top receiver, has dropped at least three would-be touchdown passes this season. If both had been more consistent, the Ravens would be 3-3 instead of 1-5.
The defensive backs have played poorly all season. Offseason acquisitions such as cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety Kendrick Lewis have been disappointing and veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb has spent more time in the training room than on the field.
Question: How can a team lose a fullback in coverage and give up a 52-yard reception to Bruce Miller like the Ravens did Sunday?
It makes you want to look ahead to the NFL draft, when the Ravens might select a cornerback in the first round, or the open of free agency, when receivers like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery and Michael Crabtree hit the market.
But that's for next season. Until then, the Ravens still have to face quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton.
"We are going to continue to fight no matter what," Yanda said. "I feel like we have good leadership, a good group of guys where we are going to keep fighting no matter what. We have the right guys to turn this around. We are going to fight every day. That is just the way that it is going to be."
It's all about the attitude. That's all that is left.
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