BALTIMORE — With the Baltimore Ravens’ lead in the AFC North cut to a half-game, there will be questions about whether this team can close out the second half of the season with a division title.
The Ravens’ immediate focus is just about finishing games, especially with the Cincinnati Bengals coming to Baltimore on Thursday night. Over the past two seasons, Baltimore has gone from the best closers in the game to among the worst.
The Ravens’ 33-31 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday was their seventh after leading in the fourth quarter since the start of last season. That’s tied with the Indianapolis Colts for most in the NFL over that span.
“I think I can speak for everybody, when [the Ravens jumped out to 14-0 lead] nobody thought that [the Browns] were going to win the game, and that’s what happened,” Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike said. “So it was definitely just shocking, frustrating.”
The Ravens (7-3) held a 31-17 lead with 11:34 left in the game, which gave them a win probability of 98% and put them in a situation they used to thrive in. From 2008 to 2021 under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens were 79-0 when leading by 14 or more points at any point during the second half. Baltimore was the only unbeaten team in the NFL in that particular situation during that span.
Now, Sunday’s collapse to the Browns was the Ravens’ second after leading by 14 or more points in the second half since the start of last season. The only teams with multiple such losses over that span are the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys.
“We talk about putting teams down when they’re down [and] we should have done that,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “But even if it gets close at the end, it’s about doing our job, not making mistakes and playing the best football that we can, because we’re a hard team to beat.”
Sunday’s game came down to the quarterback play. In the fourth quarter, the Browns’ Deshaun Watson was 7-of-7 for 88 yards and a touchdown, while the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson was 1-of-5 for 11 yards and an interception, which came off a deflected pass and returned 34 yards for a touchdown.
Jackson’s 6.4 Total QBR in the fourth quarter was the third worst of his career.
“We just have to finish the game,” Jackson said.
Baltimore has typically been resilient in the games following these fourth-quarter meltdowns. In the six previous losses after leading in the fourth, the Ravens have followed with a win five times.
A loss on Thursday night would drop them out of first place in the AFC North, behind the Browns (6-3) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).
“It’s definitely frustrating, but we can’t really hang our heads on this one,” Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens said. “We have a short week. Our mindset is always [to] improve who we are, so we’re going to have that same mindset going into Thursday and be ready to play.”