The strangest winning streak in professional sports has survived from another game.
The Baltimore Ravens earned a 20-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday to extend their NFL pre-season winning streak to 24 games. Their final preseason loss was against the Atlanta Falcons on September 3, 2015.
That streak had already broken the previous 19-game record held by the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi, which was passed in 2021.
The Ravens didn’t play their starters or anything to protect the line. None of Lamar Jackson, JK Dobbins, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Roquan Smith, Marlon Humphrey or Marcus Williams did not appear on Saturday.
Instead, the Ravens featured a trio of Josh Johnson, Tyler Huntley, and Anthony Brown under center, with the trio combining to go 19 of 31 for 139 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Seven different runners, led by Justice Hill and Gus Edwards, combined to post 134 yards on 27 carries.
There may be no other preseason lineup like the Ravens
In most winning streaks that span more than 20 games, it’s not actually hard to explain what’s going on. A really good team, and they’re usually great, are firing on all cylinders and maybe get a little lucky along the way. Quality leads to victories.
The nature of the pre-season means that’s not what happened with the Crows. In theory, a pre-season game should be as close to a coin flip as you see in soccer, with each team’s second and third players jostling for roster spots. Winning will always be priority No. 3, at best, in a pre-season game, behind “don’t get injured” and “spotting better schemes and players”. This is why bad teams can go unbeaten in pre-season and good teams can go winless, because good players play too few shots.
Case in point: Jackson appeared in the grand total of Three pre-season games Since its inception in 2019.
So when a team wins 23 straight preseason games, it defies faith. Sure, Crows has a few things that could explain why they’re so good. The team is one of the best in the NFL at finding the rough in non-rendering free agency. Head coach John Harbaugh is known for being meticulous in his preparations. A grueling scheme might make the team less vulnerable to awful quarterback play, which is a possibility when you’re playing 23 preseason games.
But none of this explains their 23-match winning streak. It’s reductive and, at some point, wrong to say the Ravens are lucky, but it might be accurate to say that what they do shouldn’t be reproduced in the NFL as it currently works.
All these pre-season wins don’t have to matter, but at least they give us something different to care about in the pre-season.