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Joe Flacco Plays Well, But Laments Missed Opportunities For Offense


Quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense actually had one of its better days in terms of moving the ball.

Baltimore's offense had three drives of 12 plays or more. It posted a very respectable 368 yards. It took the lead with one minute, 18 seconds remaining.

But after a 31-27 loss in Pittsburgh that ended the Ravens' playoff hopes, Flacco and his teammates were left lamenting missed opportunities for more.

They cost the Ravens in a tight, back-and-forth Christmas classic.

"There was probably a couple plays left out there, a couple points," Flacco said. "It was probably five to 10 points left out there, and that could have made the difference."

Just as he's done many times in the past at Heinz Field, Flacco had another strong showing in Pittsburgh, completing 30 of 44 passes for 262 yards, one touchdown and one interception, which came on a prayer pass on the final play of the game.

He took some hits early in the game from Pittsburgh's blitzing defense, but rallied in the second half and nearly won the game on a comeback drive thanks to Flacco throwing seven completions for 52 yards and fullback Kyle Juszczyk bulldozing his way to end zone on a 10-yard run.

But at other times, Flacco's weapons let him down.

The most glaring incident on offense was a dropped touchdown pass by tight end Darren Waller at the start of the fourth quarter. The Ravens were leading by seven points and had a chance to take a two-touchdown lead after linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Flacco went through his reads and made a perfect throw to Waller on the right side of the end zone. The second-year 6-foot-6 tight end made the catch, but Steelers safety Sean Davis knocked it out of his hands at the last second.

The Ravens settled for a 23-yard field goal and a 10-point lead.

"It comes down to what it comes down to at the end of the game," Flacco said. "You're given your opportunities, but we were just a little bit short."

Flacco nearly threw a couple other touchdown passes too. The Ravens offense drove into Pittsburgh territory on all five first-half drives, but only got six points out of it.

The first missed opportunity was a throw to the end zone for wide receiver Breshad Perriman. Perriman leaped to bring it in, and the ball hit his hands, but was broken up by Steelers safety Mike Mitchell. Kicker Justin Tucker booted a 41-yard field goal.

At the start of the second quarter, Flacco threw a beautiful pass to tight end Dennis Pitta down the seam on third-and-21. It was a prayer, but Pitta got one hand on it and nearly hauled in the pass at the goal line.

"Yeah, we needed to capitalize on some of those missed plays," Pitta said. "We had an opportunity on a couple touchdowns that we didn't get, but any way you look at it, we did not close out the game."

That set up the most surprising missed opportunity.

The Ravens' field-goal unit came out for a 44-yard attempt, but Morgan Cox's snap was a bit high and punter Sam Koch bobbled the hold. Tucker didn't get a chance to kick it, and the Steelers took over possession.

"It's a matter of millimeters," Cox said. "On the snap, I just let go of it too late. … Obviously, I hate that I let the guys down. I'm going to go to work and make sure it never happens again."

The Ravens offense moved the ball for much of the night, but failed to do so twice when given golden starting field position at the 40-yard line after Steelers kickoffs sailed out of bounds.

The Ravens also had the Steelers on their heels in the third quarter when a holding penalty on center Jeremy Zuttah negated a 14-yard run that would have put Baltimore on the 8-yard line. Instead, Baltimore was backed up and took a 46-yard field goal that gave them a 7-point lead instead of 11.

"I don't think you ever do exactly what you want to do, but I do feel like we executed our game plan pretty well," Juszczyk said. "Like Joe Flacco said earlier, I do think we left some points out there on the board. You always feel like you can execute better."

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