Ravens have gone 674 days since winning their last close game

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When Justin Tucker missed the extra point in Sunday's 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Baltimore Ravens players left the field feeling shock and disappointment.

Perhaps they were hit with a case of deja vu, as well.

The Ravens have been the NFL's worst team in close games -- and, for a lack of a better term, it's not even close. Over the past two seasons, Baltimore has gone 0-6 in games decided by six points or less. Every other team has won at least two such games in that span.

The last time the Ravens celebrated a win by less than a touchdown margin was Dec. 18, 2016, when they held off the Philadelphia Eagles by stopping a two-point conversion at the end. That was 674 days ago.

Asked whether it takes execution or luck to win close games, coach John Harbaugh said Monday, "Both of those things. You have to make a closing play somewhere along the way."

The Ravens have the pieces to be among the top finishers in the league. Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who delivered one of the greatest postseason miracles. Tucker is the most dependable kicker in NFL history. And the Baltimore defense has built a reputation for being the stingiest over the last two decades.

Yet, when it comes to crunch time, one facet of the team flinches. It seems to occur at the worst times.

In 2016, Antonio Brown's 4-yard touchdown with nine seconds left lifted the Steelers to a 31-27 win and eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs. In last year's finale, Tyler Boyd's 49-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining produced a 31-27 victory for the Bengals and another heartbreaking exit from the postseason race for the Ravens.

Flacco hasn't thrown a winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes of a game since December 2013 against the Minnesota Vikings. Tucker hasn't had a winning kick since Week 3 of 2016 in Jacksonville.

On Sunday, the Ravens couldn't hold a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against Drew Brees and the Saints. Flacco put Baltimore in position to send the game into overtime, when he drove the Ravens down the field and hit John Brown for a 14-yard touchdown with 24 seconds remaining. But Tucker's first career missed extra point sealed Baltimore's fate.

"[The Saints are] used to putting points on the board in the fourth quarter and having to do the two-minute drill," Flacco said. "They’re used to dealing with that kind of pressure at the end of the game also. You just have to take it for what it is. Really, remember how we feel right now and make sure we nip it in the bud, get it out of our system right now and move onto next week."

Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 32-42 (.432) in games decided by less than a touchdown. Only the Cleveland Browns have lost more close games (44).

Baltimore won 10 games when the margin has been six points or less in 2015 and 2016. But the Ravens lost to the Steelers on Brown's "Immaculate Extension" near the end of the 2016 season and they haven't won a close game since.

The Ravens have never showed much of an emotional hangover from these losses. After Chris Boswell's 46-yard, last-minute field goal in Pittsburgh last year, Baltimore rebounded to win in Cleveland. After Michael Crabtree dropped a potential winning touchdown pass in Cleveland, the Ravens came back to shut out the Titans in Tennessee.

Now, after a dramatic defeat to New Orleans, the Ravens have to regroup before playing at Carolina on Sunday. At 4-3, Baltimore can't afford to let these close games slip away if it wants to end a three-year postseason drought.

"There’s no sense in putting your head down and crying about stuff like this," Flacco said. "You just have to move on. There’s good lessons in everything. At the end of the year, we can’t be looking back and regretting a game getting away because of how we thought about it the week before. You just have to go, ball out, and at the end of the 16 games you have to be able to look back at what you did and be proud of how you reacted to things. I think when you do that, that’s how you give yourself the best chance of being in the playoffs."