The issues that have plagued the Ravens this season reared their head again Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
The defense had a tough time getting the Cardinals off the field. Ill-timed penalties and missed tackles proved costly. Several questionable calls went against the Ravens. The offense struggled to move the ball. A key turnover swayed the momentum.
And even with all that, the Ravens still had another chance to tie the game with an unlikely comeback attempt, but ultimately came up short on their final drive with a game-sealing interception in the end zone.
It all added up to the Ravens suffering their third-straight loss, a 26-18 defeat at the University of Phoenix Stadium that dropped them to 1-6 on the season.
"This is where we are," Flacco said. "We probably didn't play well enough to win it, but we're always in them. It's going to be a fight down to the end. We're not going to give up."
The Ravens had opportunities in the first half after taking the lead, but a key fumble by punt returner Jeremy Ross flipped the game in Arizona's favor and the Cardinals never let go. The Cardinals outscored Baltimore 19-8 the rest of the game after that fumble.
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Quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense struggled to get into any kind of rhythm in the second half, as the group punted on its first four possessions of the second half. The only time they didn't punt in the second half came after the Ravens defense blocked a punt that gave the offense the football at Arizona's 1-yard line. They finished that drive with their lone touchdown of the second half.
While the offense faltered, the defense couldn't get the Cardinals off the field. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer picked apart the defense for 275 passing yards and two touchdowns, and Cardinals running back Chris Johnson carried for 18 times for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Despite all that went wrong, the Ravens had another game decided by the final possession. The blocked punt kept hope alive, and the Ravens drove all the way down the field in the final two minutes.
But Flacco's pass intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore in the final 10 seconds was intercepted to seal the deal and hand the Ravens another disappointing defeat.
"A lot of teams will fold their tents in this situation, but not the Ravens," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We won't do it."
Turning Point of the Game
The Ravens seemed to have the momentum late in the second quarter. They had just taken a lead, and then the defense forced the Cardinals to a three-and-out. But on the ensuing punt, Ross fumbled and the Cardinals recovered. Ross' knee may have been down on the play, but the call on the field of a fumble stood. To make matters worse, Asa Jackson was flagged for unnecessary roughness, giving the Cardinals the ball at Ravens' 12-yard line. Arizona capitalized with a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead.
- The Ravens fell victim to a bad call on the offense's first series of the game. Backup offensive lineman John Urschel came into the game and clearly reported as an eligible receiver and the Ravens threw his way for a 5-yard gain. But the officials missed Urschel reporting as eligible and flagged the offense for illegal procedure. The penalty stalled the drive and the Ravens ultimately settled for a field goal to go up 3-0.
- Cardinals running back Chris Johnson put Arizona on the board first with a 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Johnson broke several tackles on the play, and the run capped off a three-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
- On Baltimore's second drive, Flacco underthrew wide receiver Chris Givens who was open for a possible touchdown. The underthrown pass led to an incompletion, and the Ravens ended up punting on the drive.
- The fumbled punt return by Ross flipped the field for Arizona. The Ravens were then hit with a pair of penalties on the ensuing drive before wide receiver Michael Floyd caught a three-yard touchdown pass on third down to make the score 14-10.
- Baltimore found itself on the wrong end of another questionable call late in the third quarter. Nose tackle Brandon Williams appeared to completely stop the forward progress of running back Chris Johnson, but the officials didn't blow the whistle and Johnson hopped off Williams to then run 62 yards down the field. The big play set up a field goal to give the Cardinals a 20-10 lead.
- Arizona delivered the knockout punch when Josh Brown found the end zone on a four-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The touchdown gave the Cardinals a 26-10 lead with 6:08 left, which was just too much for the Ravens to overcome.
- The Ravens had a last-ditch effort at an unlikely comeback after a blocked punt by Asa Jackson set up a touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk. A two-point conversion made the score 26-18 with just over 4 minutes left.
- Flacco and the offense drove all the way down the field in the final two minutes, giving them a shot to tie the game. But Flacco's pass from the 9-yard line intended for Gillmore was intercepted by Tony Jefferson to end the comeback bid.
*Steve Smith Sr. *The veteran continues to defy the odds. The receiver was once again Baltimore's best offensive player, finishing the game with five catches for 78 yards. Smith seemed to be the target whenever the Ravens a needed a play on offense.
Stat of the Game
Penalties have been an Achilles heel for the Ravens this season, and they fell victim to them once again. Baltimore was flagged nine times for 64 yards, while the Cardinals were called for four penalties for 40 yards.
On the Horizon
The Ravens have a short week in front of them. The team plane will get back to Baltimore around 7 a.m., and the coaching staff will get right to work preparing for next week's matchup against the San Diego Chargers. While the Ravens have a tough turnaround to get ready for their Week 8 matchup, the good news is that they're playing at home this week after going on the road for five of their first seven games.