The Ravens let a chance to take control of the AFC North literally slip through their hands Sunday in Pittsburgh, and that was just the start of their offensive troubles.
Drops, fumbles, an end-zone interception, and more led to the Ravens' 17-10 defeat in Week 5, in a game the Ravens should have won and they know it.
The Ravens fell to 3-2, the same record as the Steelers, and they have themselves to blame.
"There's a lot of things where we just hurt ourselves," tight end Mark Andrews said. "This is a tough game to lose because you feel like you control the whole game. I feel like we could do what we wanted, impose our will, and we still lost the game."
"We had them beat," quarterback Lamar Jackson said.
Though he had some critical mistakes down the stretch, Jackson had arguably his best performance against the Steelers yet. His receivers, however, had a day to forget.
The Ravens were one of just two NFL teams to have zero dropped passes by wide receivers through the first four weeks, according to Pro Football Focus. Baltimore had five dropped passes in Sunday's game, costing them opportunities for knockout blows against a Pittsburgh team on the ropes.
It started with rookie Zay Flowers on the opening drive and seemed to spread like a disease. Flowers' first drop would have put the Ravens in scoring range, but instead resulted in a punt. He also dropped a shorter pass in the second half.
Flowers' most gut-wrenching play wasn't a drop, but when he fell down after getting wide open behind Pittsburgh's secondary in the fourth quarter for what should have been a huge gain. Flowers said the wind kind of took the ball and he slipped trying to turn around and catch it.
After playing his first career game in Pittsburgh, Flowers was the last player to take off his pads, as he seemed to reflect on what had happened.
"[I was] just thinking about some plays that I could've helped change the game, like the one I slipped," Flowers said. "[The Steelers] came out [and] played their game and ended up getting one victory, [but] we let them take that one."
Flowers wasn't alone. On the Ravens' third drive, with a chance to take a two-touchdown lead early in the second quarter, Andrews didn't hang onto one pass to the end zone, then Rashod Bateman dropped a gimme touchdown. In his first game back from a hamstring injury, Bateman slammed the turf with his hands, then spiked his helmet on the bench.
"We have too good of players, too great of players, myself included," Andrews said. "That stuff can't be contagious. If one [drop] happens, whatever, [we have to] move on and get to the next play. We need to be better. Obviously, Lamar is putting the ball right where it needs to be, and we need to be there for him and make plays. We do that, we win this game."
On the drive following the end-zone drops, running back Justice Hill fumbled when defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi punched the ball out from behind.
Then came another brutal drop. In the third quarter, Jackson floated a perfect deep pass to Nelson Agholor, but it went right through his outstretched hands for what could have been a touchdown. Jackson was sacked and the Ravens punted again.
With the Ravens defense smothering Pittsburgh's offense, Baltimore was still in the lead midway through the fourth quarter. And despite all the mistakes, the Ravens got a bit of good fortune when the Steelers coughed up a special team punt return, setting Baltimore's offense up at the 7-yard line with a two-point lead. A touchdown probably finishes the game.
Instead, Jackson left an end zone lob short for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., back in his first game since Week 2, and it was intercepted by rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. The Steelers then went down the field for the game-winning touchdown drive.
"I was just trying to get my boy a shot," Jackson said. "We've just got to get in sync – that's all. [Porter] made a great play [and] made a great interception. We didn't want it to happen, but it happened."
The Ravens had a couple final chances to win or tie the game, but the injuries at right tackle (Morgan Moses was ruled out and Patrick Mekari left early with a chest injury) left T.J. Watt pinning his ears back against second-year tackle Daniel Faalele and the Steelers pass rush overwhelmed the Ravens' comeback chances.
Baltimore's offense moved the ball, but again shot itself in the foot like it did in the Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Now the Ravens have a long flight to London to think it over.
"Personally, I'm moving on," Andrews said. "If you look at this game, and you see what type of team this is, the team that we have, and [if] you're going to kind of reminisce in the past and be sad about that – you're not on the right team because this team is dangerous. We're good, very good. So, it's a matter of being efficient, playing good ball, and every time, just do your job, that's all it is."