Ravens in must-win situation in Miami

MIAMI -- The unthinkable, unenviable scenario of becoming the first football team to lose to the winless Miami Dolphins this year looms heavily on the Baltimore Ravens' minds. Mired in a franchise-record seven-game losing streak after launching the season with Super Bowl ambitions, the Ravens (4-9) are hoping to avoid the embarrassment of falling to the hapless Dolphins (0-13) at Dolphin Stadium.

It would be an epic setback against a team that's on a potential collision course with an unwanted historical feat as Miami could finish the entire season without a victory, a predicament so dispiriting that owner Wayne Huizenga is contemplating selling the team to real estate developers.

For the Ravens, the lexicon of a must-win is dominating conversations.

"You don't want to be the guy that gives them that first win," linebacker Bart Scott said. "It just comes extra. I haven't won a game in two months, two months.

"It's tough. It's probably been the toughest season I've ever had in my football career. I've never lost seven in a row. I've been on some bad teams, trust me. Hopefully, we can turn it around."

Since the advent of a 16-game schedule in 1978, no NFL team has lost every game.

Naturally, the Ravens don't want to be associated with the Dolphins ending their miserable run of 16 consecutive losses dating back to last season. The New England Patriots were the last team to lose to Miami in a 21-0 shocker on Dec. 10, 2006.

Asked to describe what a loss to the Dolphins would mean, Ravens running back Willis McGahee replied: "No, we can't say that. They're bound for a win, but we're not trying to give them their first win -- even though we're on a little streak, losing-wise. But this is one game we must win."

After all, who wants to be the answer to this kind of sports trivia question?

The Dolphins are arguably banking on making the Ravens their first win, even inviting their famed 1972 squad to participate in a halftime ceremony today honoring the 35th anniversary of their perfect season.

Football luminaries such as Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Paul Warfield and Don Shula will be in attendance today to watch the teams with the two longest current losing streaks in the NFL duke it out to try to snap their respective slides.

"Misery loves company, and you have to remind yourself you're not the only one," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It doesn't feel that way; you feel like you're the only one going through it, but you're not."

Still, it has been an alarmingly bad season for the Ravens after last season's franchise-record 13-3 campaign when they ran away with the AFC North division.

This has been a dramatic collapse defined by a growing catalogue of injuries (54 games missed by starters), turnovers (32nd overall in turnover margin) and poor quarterbacking from Steve McNair and Kyle Boller.

Although McGahee ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,093 yards and seven touchdowns, his inaugural season in Baltimore following an offseason trade hasn't gone as he had envisioned.

"When I pictured the Ravens, I pictured the 13-3 team," McGahee said. "I thought we were going to come back and be even better. But it didn't go as planned, as everybody thought it would.

"You have to fight through it. You have to stick together, have faith in your teammates. You can't abandon them right now. Even though it's going south, you have to be right there."

Baltimore has committed a league-high 35 turnovers with a minus-17 margin. Plus, they have committed 94 penalties for the fifth-highest total in the league.

Three former Pro Bowl selections -- McNair, cornerback Chris McAlister and defensive end Trevor Pryce -- have been placed on injured reserve.

All of those negatives would be punctuated by a loss to the Dolphins.

"You don't want to be the one team that loses to them, but you don't want to give them any bulletin board material, either," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "So, we're going to treat it like any other game. This is an opportunity where we can end our skid."

Miami fumbled eight times last week in a 38-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills and hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since a Cleo Lemon toss to Ted Ginn on Oct. 28.

For Baltimore to lose to a team this bad would easily mark this as a season to remember for all the wrong reasons.

"We've got no pressure. What do we have pressure for?" Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "We have nothing to lose, so there's no reason to be uptight or feel pressure or be anxious or worried. If I was on the other sideline, I would say, 'I don't want to be the team that loses to the team that hasn't won a game yet.' "

An air of desperation seems to surround this game as it likely represents the best chance each team has to win a game during the final three weeks of the season.

"You're going to have two teams out there fighting hard to win," Boller said. "We both need a win bad, and that's a really big game for both of us. So, I think that adds an extra pressure for both sides."

The Ravens have been installed as favorites by 3.5 points, the first time they've been predicted to win in several weeks.

They're hardly in a position to look down their noses at anybody, not during this season of ineptitude.

"I don't care whether you're playing the best team in the league or the opposite of that," Billick said. "We certainly, where we are, don't have the right to overlook anybody, and anytime you go on the road it's a tough battle."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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