Baltimore Ravens Navigate Crucial Test Amid Tight AFC North Contest
In the face of a diminishing lead in the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens find themselves at a pivotal crossroads, prompting inquiries about their ability to clinch a divisional crown in the latter stages of the season.
The immediate focal point for the Ravens revolves around their adeptness in sealing victories, a proficiency that seems to have wavered, notably as they prepare to confront the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night in Baltimore.
Over the preceding two seasons, Baltimore has shifted from being expert finishers to residing among the less effective. Their 33-31 setback to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday marked their seventh loss after leading in the fourth quarter since the inception of the last season, tying them with the Indianapolis Colts for the rather undesirable distinction of most such losses in the NFL during that period.
Challenges and Displeasure
Conveying collective dissatisfaction, Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike expressed, “I believe I can convey the sentiments of everyone when [the Ravens surged to a 14-0 lead]. No one foresaw that [the Browns] would secure the victory, and yet, that’s precisely what unfolded. It was genuinely surprising and disheartening.”
Despite commanding a 31-17 lead with 11:34 remaining in the game, the Ravens, armed with a 98% win probability, found themselves in an uneasy situation, a considerable departure from their historical prowess in such circumstances. Under coach John Harbaugh from 2008 to 2021, the Ravens boasted a flawless record of 79-0 when leading by 14 or more points at any point in the second half. However, Sunday’s collapse against the Browns marked their second such setback in the past two seasons.
Joining the ranks of the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys in this less-than-ideal statistic, the Ravens now confront the challenge of regaining their former dominance.
The crux of Sunday’s game revolved around quarterback performance. In the decisive fourth quarter, the Browns’ Deshaun Watson showcased precision, completing 7-of-7 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. In stark contrast, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson grappled, managing only 1-of-5 for 11 yards and an interception, further compounded by a deflected pass returned 34 yards for a touchdown.
Jackson’s subpar 6.4 Total QBR in the fourth quarter marked the third-worst of his career.
Reflecting on the outcome, Jackson underscored the imperative to “finish the game.”
Resilience and Rebirth
Historically, the Ravens have displayed resilience following fourth-quarter setbacks. In the six previous losses after leading in the fourth quarter, they have bounced back with a victory on five occasions.
Nevertheless, a defeat on Thursday night could see them relinquish their top spot in the AFC North, trailing behind the Browns (6-3) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).
Unfazed, Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens asserted, “It’s undeniably frustrating, but we cannot linger on this setback. We have a concise week. Our mindset consistently revolves around elevating our performance, so we will maintain that same outlook heading into Thursday and be primed to compete.”
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