EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One-by-one, after their latest mistake-filled loss, Ravens players stood up and bluntly assessed the state of the team.
"We're not good right now," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I think that's the biggest thing."
Nose tackle Brandon Williams described the Ravens' toughest matchup as "us versus ourselves." Tight end Dennis Pitta probably summed things up best when he said, "We're not in a good place."
The Ravens limped out of MetLife Stadium late Sunday afternoon and into their bye week, buckling under the weight of a 24-16 loss to the New York Jets. It's the first four-game losing streak in John Harbaugh's tenure, and deficiencies have emerged in pretty much every aspect of the game.
The bye week couldn't come at a better time for a team that went 0-for-October, and has a roster decimated by injuries. Several of their prominent players could be back by the time the Ravens face the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov.6, but it isn't clear if that will be enough for the team to salvage a once-promising season.
The AFC North standings suggest the Ravens (3-4), who are tied for second with the Cincinnati Bengals and just one game behind the division-leading Steelers, are still very much in the thick of things. But the eyes of anybody who has watched this team over the past month likely tells them something different. The Ravens may not be fully broken, but things are certainly coming apart at a rapid rate.
Against a Jets team that had lost four straight games and had just one win, the Ravens repeated the same pattern of careless and listless play that has dogged them since they improved to 3-0 with a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25. That was just a month ago, yet it seems much longer than that.
"We're practicing exceptionally well. That's why it's so disappointing," Harbaugh said. "I expect to win all these games. We should have won all four of those games. We did the things to lose those games. That's it. Not to take anything away from our opponent, but we're looking at ourselves, not our opponent. That's what we look at, and we did the things that you can't do to win a football game."
Not only did the Ravens not score an offensive touchdown, they didn't even get in the red zone against a Jets' defense that came in ranked 28th in the NFL against the pass. The Ravens, who built a 10-0 first-quarter lead and a 16-14 halftime advantage on the strength of rookie Chris Moore's recovery of a muffed snap in the end zone and three long Justin Tucker field goals, had 202 yards in the first half and only 43 in the second.
They finished the game with a franchise-low six rushing yards. The Ravens' defense, which came in ranked as the stingiest in the league against the run, surrendered 155 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Matt Forte's 1-yard score late in the third quarter gave the Jets a 24-16 lead.
"We didn't move the ball," Flacco said. "Obviously, we turned the ball over two times. The turnovers hurt, but we didn't do anything. We just didn't do anything."
A six-minute sequence in the third quarter explains why the Ravens squandered a 10-0 lead at MetLife Stadium for the second straight week. When the Ravens got the ball midway through the third quarter, they led 16-14 and Flacco had gone a team-record 176 passing attempts without throwing an interception.
He then threw two of them in a span of four offensive plays. The first was intercepted by much-maligned Jets cornerback Buster Skrine, who stepped in front of Breshad Perriman's out route and returned the interception 51 yards, to the Ravens' 3. Nick Folk hit a 22-yard field to give the Jets a lead they never relinquished.
On the Ravens' next possession, Flacco airmailed a throw intended for Perriman right into the arms of Marcus Gilchrist, who returned it to the Ravens' 24. Four plays later, Lawrence Guy stripped Forte, and Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan scooped up the ball. But Jernigan was then stripped by Jets receiver Brandon Marshall. Given a second chance, Forte got in the end zone.
"Mistakes are frustrating and they hurt because we obviously gave the game away there, but the more frustrating thing is just the fact that we can't consistently do things well," Flacco said. "If we were out there and we were playing really good football, we would probably be able to live with a mistake here and a mistake there. I think when you look back at those types of tight games, you look at the penalties and you look at the things that you missed and you kind of forget the fact that we're just not playing good football."
The Ravens were called for just four penalties, although a holding call on Alex Lewis' negated a 52-yard run by Terrance West down to the Jets' 4, midway through the second quarter. Otherwise, penalties weren't a major issue this week. Nearly everything else was.
"We didn't play good enough. I'm not going to get into 'We should do this.' We've been out-played and they played better than us," said Ravens safety Eric Weddle who was one of the culprits on Quincy Enunwa's 69-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. "You have to look at yourself first: 'How can I get better?' If everyone gets a little bit better, then our team will get better and we'll start winning these games. The teams we've lost over the last four weeks have played better. That's the bottom line."
For much of the game, the defense looked old and slow, first against Jets starter Geno Smith, and then against Ryan Fitzpatrick after Smith hurt his knee in the second quarter. The Jets had five plays for 20 yards or more, and shoddy Ravens' tackling — or just purely getting outrun — figured prominently in just about all of them.
On offense, the Ravens had a few big plays early and Mike Wallace had 10 catches for 120 yards, but they didn't get much done otherwise. Under duress much of the day and with the Jets not having to to worry about the Ravens' run game, Flacco was 25-for-44 for 248 yards, no touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Flacco, who had just two touchdown passes over his past five games, insists his sore right throwing shoulder didn't give him any issues, but he's hoping it will feel even better after the bye week.
Could the week off also cure some of the other Ravens problems? It certainly can't hurt, but the Ravens showed again Sunday that there's no quick fix. This is a team with a multitude of issues and few answers as to how to solve them.
"There's nothing any coach could do to help us, if you can't help ourselves," Wallace said.