BALTIMORE — The most depressing part of the Ravens’ 35-6 loss to Seattle on Sunday was it not being surprising.
Maybe quarterback Jimmy Clausen played a little better than most predicted. And after showing improvement against a list of underwhelming offenses in recent weeks, the Baltimore defense didn’t perform as well as expected — or at least hoped — by fans.
But was there anything else all that unexpected about the injury-ravaged Ravens being blown out by the two-time defending NFC champion and red-hot Seahawks?
Everything felt off at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, a venue that’s hosted so many meaningful December games over the last 16 years. Not only was the contest originally scheduled to be a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but it kicked off a three-game homestand, the kind of scheduling the Ravens would typically embrace when in the midst of the playoff race.
Instead, the seating bowl was virtually empty in the fourth quarter after Russell Wilson threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game and third to Doug Baldwin.
“It was bad. [The pass defense] has to be better than that,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who unsurprisingly labeled Sunday’s performance the “worst” of the season. “It’s no individual guy’s fault; it’s just not as good as it needs to be. I’ll take responsibility for that. We have to play way, way better pass defense.”
In addition to Clausen becoming the first quarterback not named Joe Flacco to start a home game for the Ravens since Dec. 30, 2007, just four of the 14 offensive skill position players — quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends — active for Sunday were even on the 53-man roster at the start of October. After Eugene Monroe was placed on injured reserve a day earlier, guard Kelechi Osemele made his first NFL start at left tackle.
Perhaps the best reflection of just how depleted the roster is, right guard Marshal Yanda was the last player out of the tunnel as the Ravens introduced the starting offense before the game. Taking nothing away from the four-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the best players in franchise history, but an offensive lineman being the last player announced doesn’t exactly energize a crowd already struggling through a miserable season.
Where have you gone Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs — or even Joe Flacco and Steve Smith?
At least the weather was beautiful for a mid-December day?
It was the worst home loss since 2013 when New England handed the Ravens a 41-7 defeat in Week 16. Their six points were their lowest output since a 20-3 loss at Indianapolis in the 2009 postseason, and it was the first time Baltimore failed to score a touchdown in a game since Justin Tucker kicked six field goals in a win at Detroit on Dec. 16, 2013. The Ravens’ 28 rushing yards were the second-lowest total under Harbaugh.
But what did you really expect with a quarterback claimed off waivers less than three weeks ago leading an injury-depleted unit against one of the best defenses in the NFL?
Clausen wasn’t the one who gave up five touchdown passes on Sunday.
The Ravens ended all discussion about the defense making recent progress as they failed to record a sack for the first time since Week 16 of last year. At least they aren’t alone in falling victim to Wilson recently as the fourth-year quarterback has thrown a whopping 16 touchdowns without an interception in his last four games.
But beyond the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs in the opener, the Baltimore defense can’t use injuries as an excuse in the same way that the opposite side of the ball can. It’s clear the unit needs an infusion of talent to bolster the pass rush and secondary this offseason.
“We already know how tough it is. I’m not going to stand here and make excuses,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “We know what the situation is. We know what we came from. We know what we don’t have. Playing in games against teams that are fighting to make the playoffs is going to be even tougher on us. Obviously, you saw that today.”
Officially eliminated from playoff contention and having clinched the first losing season of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens will now compete in their first games since 2007 knowing they have nothing to play for beyond pride. It isn’t about accountability at this point — that will come after the season — as we know what’s been wrong with this football team for three months, with injuries only turning problems into full-blown crises in recent weeks.
No, Sunday didn’t bring frustration as much as resignation for the Ravens — and their fans — against a strong football team, something they pride themselves in being most seasons. But certainly not this one as Seattle showed the Ravens just how far away they are from being a playoff-caliber team at the moment.
There will be plenty of time for discussion about which players and coaches will or won’t return in 2016.
But the final three games are just about survival while taking a peek at young players for the future.
Though Sunday was the first time all year that the Ravens have lost by more than one score, the lopsided defeat wasn’t remotely surprising.
It made for a sobering day at a place not used to such misery.
And feelings don’t figure to get much better before this season mercifully comes to an end in three weeks.
“It’s a test of our pride, and it’s a test for us as men,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We have to care for one another, and we have to always do for each other. These aren’t the results that we want, and it’s not our time for this season, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have [anything] to play for.”