CHARLOTTE – The Baltimore Ravens trailed the Carolina Panthers by 17 points at halftime Sunday and by as many as 22 afterward. They gave up 27 straight points and 36 points total, both season worsts. They finished the game with starting quarterback Joe Flacco on the sideline for the offense's final drive, a white flag in a 36-21 loss, their worst defeat of a vexing, up-and-down season.
There was, to their surprise, a lot of time to consider where they stand after three humiliating hours at the Bank of America Stadium, or how to have a top-ranked defense had been deep-fried by Carolina's multipronged attack, or where the offense could go next with a makeshift line.
After a game of discordant defense and unorganized offense, only the most objective of truths elicited unanimity.
Said Coach John Harbaugh: "We're a 4-4 team in a .500 league. We need to get rolling. "
And safety Eric Weddle: "We're 4-4. We're an average team. We just lost, got blown out, so we're – I would not say [at] rock bottom, but we've got to look at ourselves and get back to work. "
And safety Tony Jefferson: "We're at .500. This is a .500 league. We're still in the thick of things. We have to come back and get the wins. "
And outside linebacker Terrell Suggs: "Eight games in, .500, it's not where you want to be, but it's not terrible."
It's not terrible, but it's not where the Ravens thought they would be at the season's midpoint, not with their top-ranked defense, not with a partially revitalized Flacco, not after three seasons that ended up outside the playoffs. But here they are nonetheless, a week-end home game against the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers calling out in the distance.
And so, minutes after Sunday's shellacking, the Ravens were already doing the playoff math in their heads. Jimmy Smith's cornerback said he'd be told that they needed at least six wins to qualify. Suggs said they're "probably going to be needed for sure." Jefferson said winning at home was essential; Their next three games are back in M & T Bank Stadium's friendly confines.
Perhaps it was more comforting to talk about an uncertain postseason picture than the mosaic of ineptitude they'd just produced. Flacco was 22-for-39 passing for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, both of which were avoidable. After going pass-for-pass with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a heartbreaking Week 7 loss, he could not measure up to the Panthers' Superman after a game-opening touchdown drive.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton finished with 52 rushing yards – Alex Collins, the Ravens' leading rusher – and 219 passing yards with three total touchdowns. When he was not buying time against the Ravens' late-to-the-party pass rush, he was threading balls up the middle to train Maryland star DJ Moore (five catches for a game-high 90 yards) and veteran tight end Greg Olsen (four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown).
"We just did not click in anything," said Harbaugh, who opened his postgame by saying he took responsibility for the team's play. "We were not good in any area. There was nothing we did, and that starts with me, the coach. I mean, that's where it belongs, so be it on me and then move forward and get ready for Pittsburgh. "
Though the Ravens wore their record afterward, Sundalls meant.
Michael Pierce's defensive tackle, part of a Ravens' front-to-back rush yards and did not sack Newton's once, said he was "very concerned" about the team's play. Weddle said: "We're not all right. We just got blasted. "
Jefferson goal, Weddle's close friend, said one game, Sunday night, did not change his belief in the Ravens' defensive potential. Smith said he was not concerned.
"This loss is not mean we're the worst defense now," said Smith. "It does not mean we're the best, obviously. . . . We're still the same team. This loss does not change anything. "
In the standings, it does. Cleveland Browns, Justin Tucker's missed out attempt in Baltimore a week ago. The Ravens' first seven contenders entered Week 9 to combined 22-23-2; Their final nine opponents, Carolina (5-2) included, were 31-26-2 overall.
There are still home games against the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. There are road tests to come vs. the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers. The Ravens will have to win five, six, maybe seven, to avoid the questions about the direction of their franchise and the well-paid figures running it.
For now, the Ravens' record is among their few absolutes. They are a .500 team through eight games. On that, they can all agree.
"There is no lying in this league," Flacco said. "You are what your record says you are, and that's the bottom line."