From the first play of the game, the Ravens defense was forcing turnovers.
Cornerback Corey Graham picked off quarterback Andy Dalton's first pass and the Ravens came up with three more interceptions by the time the game was over. It was the most interceptions the Ravens have forced all season.
But that still wasn't enough.
"If you can't score with four turnovers, then you're in trouble," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "Field goals aren't going to get it done, especially when you're playing against a (Bengals) offense like that."
The Ravens got just nine points off those four interceptions. They missed opportunities to jump out to a big lead and silence a sell-out crowd at Paul Brown Stadium, and the inability to capitalize on those plays was a major reason for the 34-17 loss to end the season.
"It's very frustrating," Graham said. "That's one of the key things that you want to come out there and get turnovers. We were able to go out there and do that, but when it came down to it we just didn't make enough plays as a team to win this game. We didn't make enough plays and the better team won."
The offensive struggles in the red zone were the main culprit for not turning the turnovers into touchdowns.
The problems started early, as the offense opened its first possession at Cincinnati's 21-yard line following Graham's interception. The offense ran three plays and picked up just 1 yard, and then had to settle for a 38-yard field goal to go up 3-0.
Safety James Ihedigbo picked off Dalton again on the Bengals' next possession, giving the Ravens another chance to jump out to a two-score lead. The offense drove inside the red zone again, but stalled once they got inside the 10-yard line. Tucker then hit a 22-yard chip shot to go up 6-0, but the Bengals had avoided a potentially significant momentum swing to open the game.
"If we could have gotten 14 or even 10 there, it would have made a big difference," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "But that was probably the key.
"That's been an issue down the stretch for us — scoring touchdowns in the red zone — and it got us again in this game."
After missing opportunities on their first two possessions, the Ravens then went ice cold. They had just five first downs and 90 total yards in the first half and went into the locker room trailing 17-6. They needed a break in the second half, and Lardarius Webb provided it when he picked off Dalton on Cincinnati's first possession of the second half.
After Webb's interception, the offense followed an all-too-familiar script by moving the ball into the red zone and stalling. They had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Tucker on that drive.
"It's been kind of the story of our season, getting the ball in the position to score and not quite being able to do it," quarterback Joe Flacco said.
"That's been our Achilles heel for a while this season — field goals instead of touchdowns," Smith added. "It's only a matter of time before that comes back to bite you in the NFL. You've got to be able to score touchdowns to win games."
The woes in the red-zone bit the Ravens Sunday, and that was a critical element of missing an opportunity to get back to the playoffs for the sixth-straight season.
"It definitely sucks," Graham said. "We had an opportunity to get in the playoffs here today, and we didn't find a way to go out and get it done. That's what happens when you don't make enough plays. It definitely sucks, but we have to recover from it and just find a way to get better."