The Baltimore Ravens emerged from their bye week ready to stop a losing streak that had inexplicably reached two games.
Their opponent – the Cleveland Browns – were the perfect elixir. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco had each never lost to the division rival, and the full 11-game streak extended all the way back to November 18, 2007.
Instead, the Ravens mustered only 18 points and gained only 55 rushing yards in the 24-18 loss on Sunday, pushing the winless streak to three.
Running back Ray Rice had a particularly miserable day, rushing for 17 yards on 11 carries, making Flacco the leading rusher on the day with 25 yards of his own.
Flacco the Quarterback wasn’t much better, completing 24 of 41 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. For the most part, Flacco was unable to fire off crisp, accurate passes to his receivers, and his best throw was a 46-yard toss to Torrey Smith near the end of the first half that, if thrown stronger, would have been an easy touchdown.
So what’s going on with the defending Super Bowl champions?
Obviously, everyone knew there would be changes all over the roster, with the defense being gutted and the offense losing a reliable presence in wide receiver Anquan Boldin, exacerbated by tight end Dennis Pitta’s hip injury that, so far, has kept him out the entire season.
Rice could also very well still be hurting, as his own hip injury lingers. But injuries never tell the whole story of a struggling team.
The Ravens could simply be experiencing the Super Bowl hangover, the inability to meet expectations of a return to championship form. With an anemic running game, Flacco is forced to throw into defenses that bring big-time pressure, which has led to 25 sacks.
Flacco hasn’t been able to overcome those breakdowns around him because he’s having a rough season of his own, completing only 59.4 percent of his passes with ten touchdowns and nine interceptions.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” Flacco said. “It’s not easy on Sundays when you’re going out there and it’s tough sledding and you’re not getting the job done.”
A defense that can’t find its old menacing groove and an offense with little chemistry doesn’t add up to the playoffs, which the Ravens realize.
“It’s gonna be a challenge,” Harbaugh said. “We’re 3-5. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
With games remaining against the Bengals (two), Bears, Jets, Lions and Patriots, that’s an understatement.