By the time the Ravens offense heated up, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers had already worn down the defense.
Baltimore started slow, had no room in the running game the entire day and missed too many opportunities in the red zone. The offense went three-and-out or turned the ball over on nine of their first 11 possessions.
The defense kept the score close and the offense eventually heated up with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the late comeback attempt wasn't enough as the Ravens fell to the Green Bay Packers 19-17 at M&T Bank Stadium, dropping them to 3-3 on the year.
"It just overall was not good," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We just couldn't get anything going and you can't expect to play that badly for that long and win a game."
As the offense continued its season-long trend of slow starts, the Ravens defense contained one of the most productive offenses in the league.
They held the Packers to just six first downs in the first half, and forced punts on six of their first seven possessions. All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a tough time moving the football for much of the afternoon, and the Packers had to settle for field goals.
"The defense played a heck of a game for us," said running back Ray Rice, who finished with 34 rushing yards. "We would have loved to help those guys out but things didn't go our way."
The Ravens could not capitalize and they missed chances to get points on the board.
A big missed opportunity for the Ravens came in the second quarter when they got the ball to the Packers' 4-yard line in a first-and-goal situation. Baltimore ran the ball four straight times – three times with Rice and once with Bernard Pierce – and weren't able to punch it in for the touchdown.
Head Coach John Harbaugh then opted to go for the touchdown rather than kick a field goal on fourth down from the 1-yard line, and he defended the decision after the game.
"You have a high percentage opportunity to make that fourth-and-1," Harbaugh said. "I like our chances there. … I think that was a good decision there."
The Ravens then had another chance to get points right before half, when they got the ball back at their own 34-yard line with 20 seconds left. They tried to move the ball down the field to set up a field-goal attempt, which would have tied the game, but Flacco ended up getting strip-sacked and the Packers recovered to set up a field goal of their own.
"I took a bad set and the guy was able to strip the ball from Joe to set up the score, and you never want that to happen," said left tackle Eugene Monroe, who allowed the pressure to get to the quarterback.
Harbaugh explained his aggressive mindset in the situation.
"You've got to have confidence in your guys," Harbaugh said. "You give your guys a chance to make plays in situations like that. [The Packers] made a nice play and it cost us three points."
Despite the offensive woes and missed chances to put up points, the Ravens still had a chance to pull off an improbable comeback at the end. The Ravens cut the Packers' lead to 19-17 when tight end Dallas Clark reeled in a one-handed 18-yard touchdown pass with 2:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. The play was set up by a 63-yard reception by Tandon Doss on fourth-and-21 from the Ravens' own 19-yard line.
The Ravens had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning when they kicked the ball away to the Packers, but the defense could not get Green Bay off the field. The Packers picked up a pair of first downs and then ran out the clock to end the game.
"The defense had a chance to go out and win it and get the offense back the ball and we weren't able to do it," linebacker Daryl Smith said. "It sucked."
The failed stop at the end of the game thwarted a solid overall effort from the defense for the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the Packers offense controlled the game and the Ravens defense was unable to come up with stops.
The Packers put up 141 yards and controlled the ball for 9 minutes and 21 seconds in the final frame. In addition to the final drive to run out the clock, the Packers also had a 12-play, 72-yard drive that ate up 7:02 of the clock and ended in what proved to be the game-winning field goal.
"If we do our job better and we get the ball back to the offense, they have more time, and they'll run more plays," Smith said. "Every time we go out there we've got to go out and play ball and be ready to give our offense back the ball."
The struggles for the Ravens came on a day where they had some critical players back on the field. Monroe took over at left tackle for veteran Bryant McKinnie and wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown both returned to the lineup.
Despite the return of the receivers and activation of Monroe, the offense showed it still has room to grow.
"We just need to continue to get better," Harbaugh said. "We've got the right people. We're doing the right things. The thing that we're not going to do is overreact."
With the loss, the Ravens lost ground in the AFC North race as the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills to improve to 4-2 on the year. The Ravens and Browns are now tied for second place with a 3-3 record.
The Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh next week to take on a Steelers team that just picked up its first victory of the season over the New York Jets to move to 1-4 on the year.
"As crazy as it sounds, we still have a shot at our division," Rice said. "We've got to go to Pittsburgh next week and that's the most important thing right now."