BALTIMORE -- You saw it coming. You felt it happening to the Raiders, noticed things slipping, warning signs everywhere.
Then: Absolute free fall.
And you may never be able -- or want -- to look at the 2012 Raiders the same again.
With a gentle push from Baltimore, the Raiders defense went hurtling off the cliff on Sunday, and now lies in wreckage at the bottom of the NFL pit.
The historical: The Ravens destroyed the Raiders 55-20, tying the record for most points ever scored against a Raiders team.
The undeniable: A week earlier, the Raiders gave up 42 points to Tampa Bay, including 251 rushing yards to Doug Martin and three long touchdown runs in the second half alone.
The literal: Somebody has to fix this ASAP, or somebody (or many somebodies) will have to pay for this with their jobs.
The Raiders are 3-6, and things are starting to look and feel like some of their worst days. Their offense is up and down; their defense is plummeting.
"It's like a dam right now," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. "You put your finger in one hole, two or three more holes pop up."
On Sunday, with all focus on covering up their problems in the run defense, the Raiders actually held Ravens tailback Ray Rice to only 35 yards on 13 carries.
But that only opened up everything else -- Joe Flacco completed 21 of 33 passes for 341 yards and three TDs, and seemed to have his pick of receivers running free on
The Raiders didn't get a pass rush, didn't cover the middle, committed dumb penalties, and let deep receivers break free. Other than that, no issues!
Of course, the Raiders defense has been a problem for years, and started awful this season under new coach Dennis Allen, a former defensive coordinator.
But things seemed to tighten up in a close loss at Atlanta and then victories over Jacksonville and Kansas City (admittedly, both horrible teams).
Then Tampa Bay, followed by the 55-spot, the Raiders' worst two-game spell since 1961.
Some of the points can be pinned on terrible special teams play and offensive turnovers, but it's not like the Raiders D held up in any way these past two weeks.
"When we play our defense, we're good -- good in spurts," defensive back Michael Huff said. "But when we're bad, we're bad. We're either all good or all bad."
This clearly speaks to a talent deficiency -- the Raiders' secondary is patchwork, their linebackers are limited, and their defensive line is underperforming.
That responsibility is on general manager Reggie McKenzie, who inherited a strange roster last offseason and has only begun to add his own players.
Some moves have been decent successes, some not, and McKenzie's tenure will be judged more accurately in a year or two.
The G.M. already has started a mini-purge of overpaid, underperforming players; by next offseason, I'd imagine that it will be nearly complete -- and expensive players such as Kelly, Richard Seymour and Rolando McClain could be on the chopping block.
Right now, is there a single for-sure keeper on the defense? No. That's a lot of talent to restock.
But other questions have to focus on Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver; they're drawing up the schemes and they're directing the players.
And mistakes continue to be made. Awful, TD-allowing mistakes.
There is a lack of talent, sure, but a coaching staff that can't fix mistakes now might never be able to do it.
"At the end of the day, it's my job to make sure that this team is ready to play and it's my job to make sure that we execute our jobs on the football field," Allen said.
"We didn't do that today. That ultimately lies with me."
For now, Allen's message to his players is crystal clear: Nobody's riding in to save the Raiders; it's up to these players and coaches to save themselves.
Or else. well, Sunday the Raiders host the New Orleans Saints, who have been known to put some points on the board.
That could make the humiliation of giving up 55. and surrendering a TD on John Harbaugh's brash fake-field goal (with a 41-17 lead) feel like nothing.
"If you don't slow down New Orleans with Drew Brees, it's going to get ugly, you know what I mean?" Kelly said.
"At the end of the day, you have to have some type of pride about you as a man, that I'm not going to keep on letting anybody put their foot (on you)."
That is what the next seven Raiders games will be about: Who stands up and who stays down?
It's about the players, because that will determine who sticks around for next season. But it's about the coaches and organization, too, because that will tell us all if they truly can get this going in the right direction.
Or there will be more free falls coming.