"It's tough to look back on the game and say we should have done this or done this," Joe Flacco said after the Ravens lost to San Diego. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Even the most loyal fans have to see that the Ravens are still an average football team in a league filled with mediocrity.
The team had its most legitimate chance to prove they were top contenders Sunday, but allowed two long drives in the final 6:03 before losing to the San Diego Chargers, 34-33, at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Purple Kool-Aid has lost its potency.
The Ravens (7-5) still have a shot to win the AFC North or earn a wild-card spot, but entering December you search for something to hang your hat on that will carry a team into — and through — the postseason.
Some teams have the quarterback like the Denver Broncos (Peyton Manning), the Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers) or the New England Patriots (Tom Brady).
The Seattle Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champion and it appears their defense is playing at a high level again. Even with the Buffalo Bills or the Miami Dolphins, there is talk about those teams on the verge of having great defenses.
There is nothing that makes the Ravens special. Some will point out the team's strong running game led by halfback Justin Forsett, but inside the red zone against the Chargers, the Ravens ran 14 times for 22 yards.
Pardon me for not shaking in my boots.
The Ravens can't maintain consistency. They've scored a lot of points in the last two games, but their struggles in the passing game and scoring inside the opposition's 20-yard lines are concerns.
And then there is the defense. Oh well, never mind.
There was some brief hope that the group might improve after the Ravens beat the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees last Monday night even through the Saints scored 27 points and Brees threw for 420 yards.
But Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers torched the Ravens with 383 yards passing and three touchdowns. He exposed the Ravens secondary for what it really is: a group of career special teamers or young players forced into starting roles.
Even while the game was going on, there were thoughts about whether or not the Ravens or the Chargers were really that good. Soon after the game was over and a lot of attention focused on the Packers-Patriots game, it was so easy to see a faster pace and greater intensity.
There are three levels of play in the NFL. There are a few dominant teams like New England, Green Bay and Denver and the scrubs such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
They've given up 61 points and nearly 1,000 yards of total offense in the last two games. They are 3-5 against opponents in the AFC, and four of their wins outside the conference are against teams with losing records — Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and the Atlanta Falcons.
There are those who will point out that the Ravens were just a few plays from beating the Chargers, but good teams take care of business at home. Good teams make big plays in crunch time.
Good teams don't waste opportunities.
"You know this is the National Football League, and that's what the games are like," San Diego tight end Antonio Gates said. "It comes down to one or two plays to decide games."
Ravens tight end Owen Daniels added: "Yeah, 7-5 is a lot different than 8-4 at this point. And on top of everything else that happened, it was right there for us to take and we let it slip away."
The NFL loves this parity stuff. The league rewards teams like the Ravens, who didn't go to the playoffs last season, with light schedules, and an efficiently run organization like the Ravens can build off the bottom-feeders.
The Ravens can still make a serious run with four games remaining, two on the road in Miami and Houston, and two at home against Jacksonville and Cleveland.
But at this point of the season the Ravens appear to be a one-and-done team even if they get to the postseason. Barring injuries or bad weather, the secondary isn't a good matchup for any of the league's top quarterbacks.
The Ravens offense is solid, but the defense will have to rely on smoke and mirrors to mask a lot of weaknesses. Deception and trickery only account for a small part of games each Sunday.