Josh Bynes had done the math, or at least the veteran inside linebacker had remembered it. The Ravens’ season was over at 8-9, he said Monday, because they hadn’t finished the games they needed to. Of their six straight losses to end the year, five were by a combined eight points.
“That’s the way the whole season has been: opportunity after opportunity and just missing it,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Sunday. “There’s a lot of fight in this team, a lot of heart. It’s just tough when you give it that much effort and that much energy but you can’t get it done. Those ones hurt the most.”
But which losses actually hurt the most? To separate the pretty bad from the truly miserable, The Baltimore Sun ranked the Ravens’ nine defeats by three unscientific criteria: drama (how upsetting or exasperating the ending was), disappointment (how far short of expectations the result was) and damage (how much the game’s results affected the team’s season).
The lower the ranking, the more dramatic or disappointing or damaging the loss was. The lower the combined ranking, the worse the game was overall. (In one case, margin of defeat was used to separate the two games that tied for third.) Here’s how the Ravens’ nine losses graded out, from least miserable to most miserable.
9. Bengals 41, Ravens 21 (Week 16)
Drama (9): There was almost none. After taking a 7-3 lead midway through the first quarter, the Ravens were outscored 38-14 the rest of the way. The only intrigue after halftime was how many passing yards Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow would finish with (525, the fourth most in NFL history) and what Ravens and Bengals players would say afterward about running up the score (not a whole lot).
Disappointment (9): Despite starting journeyman Josh Johnson at quarterback, despite a secondary filled with practice squad call-ups, the Ravens actually lost by fewer points in Cincinnati than they did in the teams’ first meeting. There was life on offense. There were pleasant surprises on defense.
Damage (4): The Bengals took sole possession of first place in the AFC North, completed the season sweep and pushed the Ravens into a “win out or you’re probably doomed” playoff scenario. Anthony Averett, the team’s top remaining outside cornerback, was also knocked out of the game with what turned out to be a season-ending ribs injury.
8. Raiders 33, Ravens 27 (Week 1)
Drama (4): All these months later, it’s easy to forget what it took to get this game to overtime, not to mention what actually happened in overtime. In the last minute of regulation, the Ravens got a go-ahead 47-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, then gave up a 55-yard field goal to Daniel Carlson. In overtime, the Ravens survived the Raiders’ first-and-goal from the 1, only to lose after a strip-sack on quarterback Lamar Jackson on the following possession.
Disappointment (6): The Ravens were field-goal favorites in Las Vegas, but the season opener was their first game since losing running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters to season-ending knee injuries. No one knew just what kind of season awaited both teams.
Damage (9): The Ravens shut down left tackle Ronnie Stanley and placed offensive lineman Tyre Phillips on injured reserve after the game, but as the line reshuffled, Alejandro Villanueva could at least ditch his spot at right tackle. Five weeks later, the Ravens were 5-1 anyway.
7. Bengals 41, Ravens 17 (Week 7)
Drama (8): After a back-and-forth first half in Baltimore, the Ravens opened the second half with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Up 17-13, they were well-positioned for a crucial divisional win. Then the wheels fell off. Cincinnati scored 28 unanswered points as Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase embarrassed the Ravens’ defense.
Disappointment (2): The Ravens had won five straight coming into the game. The Bengals were 4-2 but had been outclassed in recent meetings. None of that seemed to matter. In what became the Ravens’ worst loss since 2017, Jackson couldn’t solve the Bengals’ blitzes or spark the team’s running game. On defense, the tackling and coverage were flimsy. Coach John Harbaugh later called it the Ravens’ “worst game in a long time.”
Damage (8): It wasn’t long before the Ravens were back atop the AFC North; Cincinnati followed the road romp with a stunning loss to the New York Jets and a blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns. The most concerning development for the Ravens was right tackle Patrick Mekari’s right ankle injury, which sidelined him until Week 11.
6. Packers 31, Ravens 30 (Week 15)
Drama (1): It was nearly the ultimate underdog story: a short-handed team without its best player coming one play short of stunning a Super Bowl favorite and its Hall of Fame quarterback. Despite their injuries and illnesses, the Ravens didn’t trail Green Bay by more than a touchdown until the fourth quarter, at which point they scored 13 straight points. Quarterback Tyler Huntley could’ve made it 15 straight, but he forced a throw to tight end Mark Andrews on a 2-point try and missed an open Brown in the middle of the end zone.
Disappointment (8): Who expected Huntley to go blow for blow with Aaron Rodgers? With Jackson sidelined by an ankle injury and the Ravens’ defense decimated by a coronavirus outbreak, Green Bay was a nine-point favorite in Baltimore. Even in defeat, Harbaugh’s case for NFL Coach of the Year honors seemed bolstered.
Damage (7): The loss was the Ravens’ third straight, and third by two or fewer points, but it didn’t dramatically alter the team’s postseason odds. Because of the AFC playoff picture, the Ravens’ game the following week in Cincinnati was always going to be more important.
5. Rams 20, Ravens 19 (Week 17)
Drama (5): Some of the game’s biggest moments didn’t feel hugely significant until the end. That was when the Ravens, the better team for much of the afternoon, watched their lead (and playoff chances) crumble in dramatic but familiar fashion: a red-zone flop on offense, a fourth-down conversion and touchdown allowed on defense, and a final drive that went nowhere.
Disappointment (7): A week after the shellacking in Cincinnati came another game with bad matchups. Even if the Ravens could limit superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a fearsome pass rush on offense, they still had to stop superstar wide receiver Cooper Kupp with a depleted cornerback group on defense. The Rams ultimately ended the regular season as the most efficient opponent on the Ravens’ schedule, according to Football Outsiders.
Damage (2): The Ravens needed a win to keep their playoff chances afloat. Their collapse sent them into Week 18 with a near-impossible path to the postseason and handed Harbaugh his first five-game losing streak in Baltimore.
4. Dolphins 22, Ravens 10 (Week 10)
Drama (7): Just because it was a shocking upset doesn’t mean it was an especially watchable game. Both teams punted eight times, and the Ravens didn’t reach the red zone until their second-to-last drive. Cornerback Xavien Howard’s scoop-and-score gave Miami a 15-3 lead with 11 minutes left, and the Dolphins answered the Ravens’ lone touchdown drive later in the quarter with their own end-zone march.
Disappointment (1): “Thursday Night Football” is a breeding ground for strange outcomes, but on paper, Miami went into the game with almost no apparent advantages. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t healthy enough to start. Their offensive line was one of the NFL’s worst. Their talented defense was struggling to keep offenses under 30 points. And yet somehow, by knocking out quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Ravens actually managed to hurt their chances of winning.
Damage (5): The Ravens bounced back from the short-week loss to win their next two games and improve to 8-3, but the Dolphins seemed to deliver a blueprint to opposing defensive coordinators. If Miami’s blitz-heavy approach could frustrate Jackson that much, why not copy it? Despite having Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins and Brown reunited at wide receiver, Jackson finished with just 5.5 yards per attempt.
3. Steelers 16, Ravens 13 (Week 18)
Drama (3): Up until about 3 p.m. Sunday, this game’s appeal could have been distilled to a simple premise: Can the Ravens send quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into near-certain retirement with a loss? Then the Jacksonville Jaguars took a commanding lead over the Indianapolis Colts, and a world of possibilities opened up. The Ravens, handed a playoff lifeline, just couldn’t hold on. They floundered in the red zone, folded on a key fourth-quarter drive and couldn’t finish Pittsburgh off in overtime.
Disappointment (4): The Ravens headed into the offseason with a six-game losing streak, their fifth loss by three or fewer points and their fourth straight loss to Pittsburgh. Not even Terrell Suggs’ return to Baltimore could lift the Ravens past a seriously flawed Steelers team.
Damage (6): The Miami Dolphins’ win over the New England Patriots later Sunday ended all hope the Ravens would have had of making the playoffs, and the No. 14 overall pick in the NFL draft will be a nice consolation prize. That won’t keep Pittsburgh from advancing to the postseason, however. If outside linebacker Tyus Bowser’s reported Achilles tendon injury sidelines him for part of the 2022 season, this game becomes even more consequential.
2. Browns 24, Ravens 22 (Week 14)
Drama (6): Cleveland already led 10-0 when an ankle injury knocked Jackson out of the game, and it entered halftime with a 24-6 lead. The Ravens slowly made their way back, but a failed 2-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter kept them from pulling even after their next touchdown. A successful onside kick with just over a minute left kept the Ravens’ hope alive, but they got only as far as their 45-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Disappointment (5): Cleveland had a bye week to rest up and prepare for the teams’ second meeting in three weeks. The Ravens, meanwhile, didn’t have three of their most important blockers — fullback Patrick Ricard, tight end Nick Boyle and Mekari — healthy enough to play. Few could have imagined Huntley stepping in to finish with 270 passing yards and a 99.7 passer rating, either.
Damage (1): While this season was Jackson’s worst as a full-time starter, a healthy ankle still might’ve been enough to carry the Ravens to a division title, or at least a playoff appearance. Considering the defense’s strong showing in Week 17 and Week 18, and Huntley’s stretch of bumpy play, the Ravens probably would’ve won both games with Jackson available. The offense’s big-play ability withered in his absence.
1. Steelers 20, Ravens 19 (Week 13)
Drama (2): After scoring just three points over its first six possessions, Pittsburgh started to push the visiting Ravens around. A field goal cut the Steelers’ deficit to 13-12 midway through the fourth quarter, and a Ravens three-and-out followed. On Pittsburgh’s go-ahead drive, capped with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Diontae Johnson and subsequent 2-point conversion, inside linebacker Patrick Queen had an interception wiped out by a defensive penalty. Jackson needed just 96 seconds to lead the Ravens into the end zone, but he couldn’t connect with an open Andrews on the 2-point try, wasting a chance to take a 21-20 lead with 12 seconds left.
Disappointment (3): The Steelers were coming off a 41-10 loss to the Bengals, and it wasn’t clear whether they’d have star pass rusher T.J. Watt available or the rush defense required to stop the Ravens. They ended up with both: Watt finished with 3 ½ sacks, and the Ravens were held to 4.3 yards per carry. Just as concerning, Roethlisberger outplayed Jackson, who ended a promising game-opening drive with a jump-ball interception and struggled to locate open receivers all game.
Damage (3): The Ravens went for the last-minute road win in part because of their depleted cornerback depth. Tavon Young was sick and limited. Chris Westry was inactive. Averett was struggling. Most crucial, though, was the loss of Marlon Humphrey, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury on the Steelers’ go-ahead drive. That left the Ravens without their top two cornerbacks or starting safety DeShon Elliott — and sometimes much more — over the season’s final five games. (Mekari missed their next two games, too.) They didn’t win any of them.