These Ravens missed tackles and assignments. They were dominated on the offensive and defensive fronts. They turned the ball over on offense and couldn’t get near the quarterback or the ball on defense. They couldn’t do much of anything.
“We came and when we got to this game, we fell flat on our faces,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said.
After the Jaguars had embarrassed the Ravens in every phase of the game and dealt them their worst defeat in the John Harbaugh era, a 44-7 drubbing in front of an announced 84,592 that was every bit as lopsided as the score indicated, players insisted they hadn’t seen this performance coming.
Maybe the reasons for such a wretched effort will hit them at some point during the 7½-hour plane ride back to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. What they came up with late Sunday morning was that one team played really well and another team played extremely poorly.
“It’s bad,” Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “They out-executed us in every phase of the game. That’s what happens in the National Football League when you don’t come ready to play.”
How bad did it get? After a quarter, the Ravens trailed 10-0 and had minus 1 yard of offense to the Jaguars’ 169. Less than five minutes into the second quarter, the Ravens had already given up 13 points, three more than they surrendered in their first two games combined.
Quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t complete a pass or lead his offense to a first down until 4:18 remained in the second quarter. By then, the Ravens (2-1) already were losing 20-0. They went into halftime trailing 23-0.
And as hard as it is to believe, things would get worse, much worse. A partisan Ravens crowd, which was loud until kickoff, had nothing to cheer about.
“You can’t get first downs, they score touchdowns, these games can get out of hand quickly,” Flacco said. “It wasn’t good.”
Flacco completed just eight of 18 passes for 28 yards, the fewest passing yards of his career. He was sacked twice and intercepted twice — he’s thrown interceptions in an NFL-high nine straight games dating to last year — and he finished with a ghastly quarterback rating of 12.0.
The Ravens were in danger of getting shut out for just the third time in franchise history — and first time since 2002 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — when Ryan Mallett, who relieved Flacco in the fourth quarter, hit tight end Benjamin Watson on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 3:24 to play.
“I could probably go back through each drive and tell you what happened, but you saw it. It just is what it is,” Flacco said. “We couldn’t complete a pass. We couldn’t get any chunks [of yards] and we couldn’t complete first downs. We left our defense on the field and they were scoring touchdowns. Before you know it, the game is out of hand.”
The margin of defeat tied the biggest in franchise history, which was in a 37-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Sunday night game in November 1997. The Ravens have given up more than 44 points only four times.
“We played poorly. They played very well and that’s reflected in the outcome of the game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
The defense was repeatedly put in bad positions by the offense. The Jaguars (2-1) started three drives inside the Ravens’ 35-yard line, and that included one on the 2 after a fumble by running back Terrance West. They scored a touchdown each time. A Ravens defense that was already without standout defensive tackle Brandon Williams and then lost starting defensive end Brent Urban in the first quarter because of a foot injury was worn out by the Jaguars, who possessed the ball for nearly 25 of the 30 minutes in the first half.
Still, it had to be unsettling to watch a defense that forced 10 turnovers in the first two games and talked openly in the preseason about becoming one of the best Ravens defenses ever get torn apart by Blake Bortles, a mistake-prone quarterback who nearly lost his starting job in the preseason.
Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns, good for a 128.2 quarterback rating. Three of his touchdown passes went to tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is known more for his blocking than his receiving. Lewis had three touchdown catches in the previous three seasons combined.
“We got our butts kicked in all three phases,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. “That might be one of the worst losses, if not the worst loss I’ve ever been a part of. But I do know one thing about this team is we won’t point fingers. We win and lose as a team. “
All last week, the Ravens insisted they’d be ready for what they called a business trip. The injuries, the long flight, the altered practice schedule and routine, the unfamiliarity with their surroundings compared with their opponent, which was playing in London for the fifth straight season, none of that really mattered.
To their credit, none of the Ravens used any of those factors as an excuse after the game even while conceding that this week presented different challenges. The Jaguars, who were beaten, 37-16, by the Tennessee Titans at home last week, looked like the quicker, better and more prepared team from the outset.
“It doesn’t feel great. You’re flying forever, but that’s an excuse,” said safety Tony Jefferson, who struggled in his matchup with Lewis. “We don’t deal in excuses here. You come out and play ball and you expect to win and put some good stuff on tape. We didn’t do that today.”
Now, the Ravens, who were expected to land back in Baltimore in the early hours Monday, return home to pick up the pieces against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an early battle for first place in the AFC North. The Steelers also fell to 2-1, losing to the Chicago Bears in overtime.
For the Ravens, the concern about Flacco and the offense will persist into that matchup and they’ll now be accompanied by questions about the defense.
“Just like the Patriots lost the first game, they came back and bounced back,” Smith said. “Every team bounces back. We are a good team. One loss doesn’t define us.”