The Ravens are already in the playoffs.
But the concern in Baltimore is as much about a run of long-term success ending as the short-term reality that they’re staggering into the postseason.
“People say we’re backing into the playoffs,” Ravens running back Ray Rice told Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com. “You know what? I’m not making any excuses. We have to play better. We have to put it all together right now.”
The Ravens are the only team to qualify for the playoffs the last five seasons, but barring a run no one can see coming, will have fallen short of the Super Bowl in each of them.
The last team to miss the Super Bowl while making the playoffs five years in a row was the Dolphins from 1997-2001, a clear example of a window closing and never opening all the way back again.
Quarterback Joe Flacco’s a pending free agent, who could get the franchise tag. But that leaves safety Ed Reed needing to be dealt with, and their defense full of aging stars hasn’t been able to keep the team afloat the way it used to.
If the Ravens are going to maintain their high level, they’ll have to shift gears soon, after losing three straight, there’s a reasonable doubt.
“Sometimes, you forget how hard it is to win games,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been reminded in a very big way.
“It’s not a bad thing. I’m kind of a providence guy. Things happen for a reason. There’s good to come out of this. I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be.”
And no one who has watched the Ravens can say with any confidence what it’s going to be either.