The Ravens aren't taking any moral victories after a 10-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
Sure, the Cowboys have the NFL's best record at 9-1. And, yes, the Ravens were tied with them at halftime.
But that just left the Ravens feeling more frustrated as they prepared to fly home.
"We should beat this team," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "And I'm not kidding."
The Ravens and Cowboys were tied at 10 by the end of the first half, and Baltimore was the stronger team for much of it.
The Ravens defense was handcuffing Dallas, who punted on its first four possessions and notched just 63 yards over that span. The Cowboys had just 45 rushing yards in the first half.
Baltimore's offense, meanwhile, strung together a 90-yard touchdown drive on its second possession and was hitting a rhythm similar to the one it found in a breakout win over the Cleveland Browns the week prior.
"This is a good team," wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. said of the Cowboys. "We felt like we had them on the ropes and we let them off the hook."
As has been the case for much of the year on offense, the Ravens shot themselves in the foot. They couldn't overcome the Cowboys and themselves.
Two penalties spoiled promising drives. Considering the Ravens only had nine drives in the game, including one that hardly counts because the game was out of reach, they were a big factor.
Both penalties were committed by veteran center Jeremy Zuttah, who had three flags on the day.
The first was a holding call that wiped out a 14-yard screen play to fullback Kyle Juszczyk that would have put the Ravens at midfield. Instead, they faced second-and-15 from their own 15-yard line. Baltimore punted two plays later.
Zuttah's second penalty was another holding call that threatened to knock the Ravens out of field-goal range, but Baltimore got back in range for kicker Justin Tucker, who hit a 46-yard field goal.
The center's third penalty came after the Cowboys took their first lead in the third quarter. After a 9-yard run by rookie Kenneth Dixon, the Ravens would have been facing a second-and-1 from near midfield. But Zuttah was flagged for unnecessary roughness after he clobbered safety J.J. Wilcox at the end of the run as multiple Cowboys roughed up Dixon along the sideline.
The penalty put the Ravens in a second-and-16 situation and they punted two plays later. The Cowboys marched down the field for another touchdown on the next drive, distancing themselves at 24-10.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he didn't see the play, but would review each penalty individually.
"Penalties were the main culprit in stopping our offense in the first half," Harbaugh said. "That should never happen. We have too much at stake."
Flacco stood up for Zuttah after the game.
"It might not have been the smartest play, but the whistle hadn't blown," Flacco said. "In this day and age in football, they're probably going to make that call. But when you're playing football and you're an offensive lineman and that's your nature, it's tough to say, 'Play smart.' You're just looking to hit guys."
Zuttah didn't make any excuses. He said he saw Dixon fighting for extra yards and was just trying to help.
"The league is kind of changing at this point," Zuttah said. "You've just got to know, certain situations, you've got to toe the line. There's a fine line between being aggressive and doing something boneheaded.
"[The referee] told me you can't hit him like that whether the whistle blew or not, so you've just got to kind of change the way you play."
The Ravens offense didn't get much of a chance in the second half. They only had four possessions, including one with less than two minutes left, with no timeouts and trailing by 10 points.
That's because Baltimore's defense surrendered three long scoring drives to Dallas that ate up the clock.
The Ravens didn't get off the field on third down, and struggled to find a mix between preventing the big plays without cornerback Jimmy Smith and having enough defenders in the box to contain Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott and its strong run game.
"They scored every time they got the ball," Flacco said. "When it's that kind of game, we have to do the same thing."
On Sunday, the offense just wasn't sharp enough, and didn't make any plays of 30 yards or more. The Cowboys had just one play over 30 yards and Elliott was held to under 100 rushing yards, but it wasn't enough.
"We're improving," Harbaugh said. "We're becoming better, but we're not there yet to win this game, because you've got to play pretty much mistake-free football, and you've got to make a few more plays, which I truly believe we are capable of doing."