A guest post by Daniel Clark, @DJC_Sports
Five weeks ago the Baltimore Ravens’ season appeared all but over after slumping to a record of 4-6, with six games remaining. The reality of the situation they found themselves in was harsh yet very simple – Win their remaining six games and win the AFC North, lose one and be forced to rely on other results to secure a wildcard, or lose two and miss the playoffs entirely.
The team’s offense was struggling and the defense was starting to signs of fatigue. Experts and fans alike were writing them off and some, the ill-informed ones, were even claiming last season’s Superbowl victory to be a fluke.
In the four weeks prior to last night’s game, the Ravens scratched, crawled and hung onto life in hope of defending their Superbowl title and quite amazingly, they kept their hopes alive. Even more importantly, that chance appeared to be increasing as each week passed by as the team started to play with the confidence it possessed last season on their way to the ultimate reward.
There were some miracles along the way, be it the crazy final two minutes against the Vikings or the 61-yard field goal from Justin Tucker against the Lions, this group of Ravens were not prepared to give up hope and they continued to dig deep into their reserves of self-believe, courage and determination.
With confidence returning and the chance at the AFC North title becoming more and more realistic, last night the Ravens came up against their toughest challenge yet – A meeting with Tom Brady and the 10-4 Patriots.
Sadly, the determination and hunger of the last month appeared to be missing early in the game and by the time the first quarter had finished, the writing was on the wall as the Ravens fell to a 14-0 deficit. That margin was quickly extended to 17-0 early in the second quarter and one sensed it just wasn’t going to be the Ravens night.
From that moment on, the Ravens defense showed some periods of fight as they kept the Patriots to just one further field goal until the end of the third quarter, however the offense just couldn’t gain any momentum and appeared to be hampered by a seemingly restricted Joe Flacco who injured his knee last week.
The Ravens did score a touchdown with 9:21 remaining in the game (a 1-yard run from Joe Flacco) and with the score at 20-7, there was a moment of hope and a brief belief that another miracle was set to occur. However that hope was quickly dashed and the Patriots ran away with the game, which eventually finished 41-7.
It was a frustrating night for all involved with the Ravens and quite frankly, nothing went their way. Joe Flacco gave up two interceptions and Tyrod Taylor allowed one as well in his brief amount of playing time. Justin Tucker had just the one field goal attempt and was unsuccessful, putting and end to his streak of 33 consecutive attempts made. Then of course there was the debate about the referees, however there’s really no point discussing that because even if it were true, it’s not going to change the result when the score is 41-7.
All in all, it was a very miserable night for the Ravens.
The final game of the regular season next week is against the recently crowned AFC North champions, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Ravens must win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
To clinch the sixth and final playoff berth, the Ravens must beat the Bengals and they also need either the Miami Dolphins to lose to the New York Jets or the San Diego Chargers to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs.
If the standings finish with a three-way tie between the three teams, the Dolphins will advance due to their 7-4 conference record which is superior to that of the Ravens (6-5) and Chargers (5-6). The Ravens however hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins thanks to their win over them in October.
If the Ravens lose, they would need the Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers to all lose as well which would then create an incredible five-way tie that would include the Jets. The Ravens would then claim the final spot courtesy of the tiebreaker.
So, a lot to take in and next weekend is certainly going to be entertaining and filled with nerves. The Ravens have a tough opponent and must rely on results to fall their way – They are no longer in control of their own destiny.