OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Shortly after Baltimore lost to Cleveland on a last-second field goal, the NFL Media Research Department passed along a stat that encapsulates the Ravens' season nicely.
Through its first 10 games, Baltimore has spent only 28 minutes, 46 seconds trailing — about the time it takes to watch a rerun of a sitcom. Yet the Ravens, unlike other teams that have started the season with that kind of dominance, are only 7-3.
“If we had finished strong in every game, we'd be undefeated,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “Which is what we'd like to be right now, but we're not. So those three games where we didn't finish the way we needed to, we lost.”
The Ravens' 33-31 loss to the Browns on Sunday was the second time this season Baltimore has been beaten on the final play. The Ravens took the lead in the very first minute and held it until they lost with no time remaining. Instead of securing a crucial series sweep of Cleveland, Baltimore fell to just a half-game ahead of the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, and now the Ravens host Cincinnati on Thursday night.
The Bengals (5-4) are just 1 1/2 games back.
In the past 40 years, the teams that have spent the least time trailing through their first 10 games are the 1984 Miami Dolphins (14:46), the 1998 Denver Broncos (27:07), this year's Ravens (28:46), the 1990 New York Giants (43:42) and the 2007 New England Patriots (51:03), according to the NFL Media Research Department.
Every team on that list started 10-0 except Baltimore.
The good news for the Ravens is that the other four teams on the list all made the Super Bowl and two of them won it. Baltimore's ability to build leads so consistently means the Ravens are doing a lot of things right. So does the Ravens' NFL-leading point differential of 113.
But it's clear Baltimore has missed opportunities to pull away in a tough division, and the schedule down the stretch is not easy. The Ravens have led after three quarters in every game.
The reason Baltimore has been behind so rarely is because the Ravens keep controlling the first quarter. They've outscored opponents 79-16 in that period.
Baltimore led 14-0 less than five minutes into the game Sunday and was up 17-3 after one.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Although Baltimore has a right to feel snakebit to some extent, blowing a 31-17 fourth-quarter lead brought back memories of last season, when the Ravens led by double figures in each of their first 10 games but still lost three of them. Key fourth-quarter mistakes have cost them this year as well.
Rookie Keaton Mitchell continues to impress. He made the most of his four touches, running for a 39-yard touchdown and taking a screen pass for 32 yards.
“I don't think we felt probably as an offensive coaching staff we were going to throw the whole game plan on him," Harbaugh said. "Looking back on it, would we have wanted him out there more? Yeah. I think that'll factor into this game plan.”
Surely the Ravens would expect to win most days when scoring 31 points, but the defense wasn't able to stop Cleveland late, allowing two touchdowns and a field goal on the Browns' final three possessions.
Baltimore made a big defensive play early when Kyle Hamilton returned an interception for a touchdown, but the defensive front seemed to feel the effects of too much time on the field. Cleveland finished with 178 yards rushing.
“Just have to treat the scoreboard like 0-0 at all times,” Hamilton said. "Feel like we could’ve done a better job of that, just intensity-wise, but (there’s) a lot of stuff to work on. Luckily, we have a game on Thursday to fix it.”
T Ronnie Stanley (knee) and CB Marlon Humphrey (ankle) were injured in Sunday's game. Harbaugh described them as day-to-day and said they did not have long-term injuries.
24 — The number of first downs by Cleveland in the game, the most allowed by Baltimore this season.
The Ravens have a short week before hosting the Bengals in their first of two straight night games. They'll travel to play the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 26.
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