BALTIMORE -- As the New England Patriots were in the process of turning the game into a rout with two late defensive touchdowns, wide receiver Torrey Smith sat on an otherwise empty bench surveying a scoreboard and a scene that no Raven could fathom.
The seats at M&T Bank Stadium were just about empty by then and the signs of resignation were everywhere.
In a game they knew they had to win in order to control their playoff future, the Ravens weren't just beaten by the Patriots. They were routed, overwhelmed and embarrassed, a 41-7 defeat qualifying as their most lopsided home loss in team history and their worst defeat of the John Harbaugh era.
"(Stuff) happens," said Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, summing up the sentiment from the home locker room. "That's all I can say."
Rarely has it happened to the Ravens at home and in a game of this magnitude. Their four-game winning streak and their two-year reign atop the AFC North now over, the Ravens (8-7) now need help to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
With the Miami Dolphins losing and the San Diego Chargers winning on Sunday, there is a three-way tie for the AFC's final wild-card spot. In order to advance to the postseason, the Ravens need to go on the road and beat the AFC North champion Bengals on Sunday, and they'll also need either the Dolphins to lose at home to the New York Jets or the Chargers to lose at home to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Ravens win individual tie-breaks with both the Dolphins and Chargers, but if it comes down to a three-way tie, they'll lose out to the Dolphins because of the first criteria to break a three-team stalemate, which is conference record.
"We are what we are because we earned it," said Smith, who was held to three catches for 69 yards and didn't make his first catch until late in the third quarter. "There's no secret to it. It's on us to go out there and take care of business next week. It's not really a great feeling that you know you need help."
After a day where everything that possibly could go wrong did, there was nothing that the Ravens could do but accept that reality.
From quarterback Joe Flacco hobbling around on his sprained left knee and throwing two interceptions to the defense failing to stop the run or make Patriots quarterback Tom Brady uncomfortable at any point to normally automatic kicker Justin Tucker missing what is usually a chip-shot for him, the Ravens had nothing to feel good about.
Their only saving grace was that they were not eliminated from postseason contention on a day where they looked nothing like a playoff team.
"It's disappointing," said Flacco, who completed 22-of-38 passes for 260 yards and no touchdowns and never looked comfortable though he said that the knee and the bulky brace he wore on it did not affect him. "We're used to going out there and playing well when we need to when (the) playoffs are on the line. We came out today hungry and ready to go get ourselves in to the playoffs or make that next step toward it, and we didn't do it."
The Ravens trailed the banged-up Patriots, 17-0 at halftime, and didn't get on the scoreboard until there was just over nine minutes to play and Flacco scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. But after cutting the Patriots' lead to 20-7, the Ravens watched New England score three touchdowns in the final two minutes, five seconds.
"They beat us," said Ravens running back Ray Rice who had an animated conversation with Harbaugh on the sideline after he was stopped on 4th-and-1 from the Patriots 5 late in the third quarter. "They came in here, they outplayed us. It's simple. We made some mistakes. They came out here, they had a game play and they executed at a high level."
On offense, the Ravens didn't pass midfield or get a catch from a wide receiver until the third quarter, and they went 0-for-3 on fourth down. They rushed for 121 yards against the NFL's 31st-ranked rush defense, but a chunk of those yards came from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor after he relieved Flacco for the final two minutes.
In that short amount of time, Taylor contributed to the offensive futility, fumbling a snap that Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and throwing an interception that Tavon Wilson returned 74 yards for a score.
On defense, the Ravens allowed 142 yards rushing and two Blount touchdowns, sacked Brady only twice and forced no turnovers. Brady was only 14-of-26 for 172 yards and a score, a 4-yard connection with Shane Vereen late in the first quarter, but he didn't need to do much more than be a game manager.
Asked what went wrong, Suggs said, "I don't know, you will have to look at the tape. Actually, you could burn the tape. It's not even worth looking at."
On special teams, Tucker missed a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter, ending his streak of consecutive makes at 33. And as a team, the Ravens committed nine penalties for 83 yards, including a pass interference call on cornerback Jimmy Smith in the end zone that preceded Blount's 1-yard touchdown run on the Patriots' first drive.
"It's not rocket science there," Harbaugh said. "We got down quick, a couple bam-bam plays, and we were in a hole. We tried to dig our way out of it and just couldn't do it against a good team that was playing well."
Before the afternoon kickoff, the Patriots had clinched their fifth straight AFC title by virtue of Miami's loss to the Buffalo Bills. But they showed no letup against the team that beat them on their home field in last year's AFC championship game, even after the outcome was no longer in doubt.
They also enjoyed every bit of the rout over a team that envisions itself as a rival. In the first half, Matthew Slater mimicked Ravens safety James Ihedigbo's grave-digger celebration after he made a special teams tackle in the first half. Blount then did former Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis' dance after is 7-yard touchdown gave the Patriots a 27-7 lead and sent the fans scurrying to the exits.
"We lost. There's nothing else to say," Ihedigbo said. "You got to show up and play your best football when your best football is needed, and we didn't do that as a team today."
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