The Ravens’ up-and-down season ended in a 20-3 AFC divisional playoff defeat to the top-seeded Colts that represented a microcosm of flaws that manifested themselves throughout the season.
A year after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game, the Ravens didn’t make it that far this time.
They did reach the playoffs for the second year in a row, something that had only previously been accomplished once before in franchise history.
“I see it both ways, a team that came in here and fought this year and had to battle through some injuries, losing key players and still gathering together as a team and fighting,” wide receiver Derrick Mason said.
“Ultimately, I see it as we fell short of a goal that we wanted to accomplish as a team, as an organization and that was to win the Super Bowl. Everybody understands that if you don’t win the Super Bowl, everything else is kind of meaningless in this sport.”
The Ravens’ style of play was a blend of aggressiveness that sometimes led to serious mistakes.
They built a punishing running game around the fluid cuts of Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice to rank fifth in rushing offense.
Quarterback Joe Flacco’s injury-plagued season was marked by progress and setbacks. In his second season, he set career-highs for attempts (499), completions (315), completion percentage (63.1 percent) and passer rating (88.9). His 3,614 passing yards and 21 touchdowns rank second in franchise history.
However, Flacco threw just two touchdowns and four interceptions during the final four games while dealing with a hip contusion.
“I think when you’re trying to be nice to yourself, you say how good of a season we had,” Flacco said. “When you’re being realistic, I think we should have done better and we could have done better. That’s the way we feel.
“I think that’s the way you’ve got to feel in order to be a good team, and that’s why it doesn’t feel good right now. So, we’ll do our best to get over it and move on and try to get better toward next year.”
The Ravens led the NFL in penalty yardage. Flags that stopped drives on offense or continued the opposition’s drives when the Ravens were on defense were a nearly constant theme and contributed heavily to six losses in a nine-game stretch after opening 3-0.
A defense that struggled early in the season to defend the pass improved markedly to finish third in total defense under first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
The Ravens overcame season-ending knee injuries to cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo as well as injuries that sidelined outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and free safety Ed Reed for several games.
Regardless, the Ravens were unable to get past the Colts, losing for the eighth consecutive time to the AFC South powerhouse.
“I don’t think we overachieved or underachieved,” cornerback Chris Carr said. “I think we’re a good football team. There were just a couple of little things that would make us better to get over the hump.”
The Ravens didn’t lose any games to teams with losing records this season, and had impressive wins over the Denver Broncos and the Steelers.
They pounded the lowly Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears by a combined margin of 79-10.
However, they melted down in a self-destructive 23-20 road loss to the Steelers marked by two touchdowns wiped out by penalties and a dropped touchdown pass from Mason.
That game caused the Ravens to have to win a pressure-packed game against the Oakland Raiders on the West Coast in order to clinch a return trip to the playoffs.
The Ravens played inspired football in routing the New England Patriots, 33-14, as Rice rushed for 159 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown run on the opening snap, and the defense intercepted Tom Brady three times and forced a fumble.
Six days later, though, the Ravens were unable to duplicate that dominant performance against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I definitely wouldn’t classify it as a successful season,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “It’s very disappointing.”
When the Ravens cleaned out their lockers two days after their Jan. 16 loss to the Colts, the feeling was a mixture of surprise and sadness.