The Ravens were evenly matched with the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Nissan Stadium, but too many self-inflicted mistakes are what left Baltimore on the wrong side of a 23-20 loss.
Baltimore gave the Titans two touchdowns because of errors. And with an offense struggling to gain consistent traction, that makes victories hard to muster.
"The contested catch turnover, the short punt that gave them a short field in the first half, and the [Titans' 75-yard] drive in the second half," Head Coach John Harbaugh said in his opening comments after the game. "We weren't able to do enough to overcome that, offensively."
One of the most painful mistakes was a drop by wide receiver Breshad Perriman that led to an interception, similar to one that hurt Baltimore in a loss to the Chicago Bears earlier this season.
Joe Flacco launched a perfect deep pass to Perriman, but the speedster tried to catch it in stride instead of leaping to attack and secure the ball. Just after the ball hit Perriman's hands, he was decked by Titans cornerback Logan Ryan and the ball popped up and was intercepted by safety Kevin Byard. Byard returned the interception 33 yards into Ravens territory and the Titans offense put the ball in the end zone three plays later to take a 10-3 lead.
"We're not doing two things," Harbaugh said. "We're not sustaining drives, which isn't giving us enough chances to make plays, and we're not making plays downfield. Contested catch turnovers have hurt us. We can't have contested catch turnovers for interceptions; it's cost us games."
After the game, Perriman lamented not playing the deep ball differently.
"Definitely, you have to go up and go get the ball at the highest point," the 2015 first-round pick said.
In the second quarter, a string of mistakes on special teams and defense led to another Titans touchdown.
The Ravens seemingly flipped field position with a 56-yard punt and an excellent special teams tackle by wide receiver Chris Moore. But rookie linebacker Tyus Bowser was flagged for an illegal formation penalty, which negated the play.
On his second attempt, Koch shanked the punt and it went out of bounds after just 17 yards. The Titans took over at Baltimore's 26-yard line instead of starting at their own 31-yard line, essentially making it a 54-yard penalty.
Despite the miscues, it looked like Baltimore's defense had the Titans stopped for what should have been a field-goal attempt, but outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith was penalized for unnecessary roughness for hitting Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota late as he went out of bounds.
Replays showed it was a questionable call, as Smith let up and barely touched Mariota, who tripped and fell to the ground. Regardless, it extended the Titans drive and they scored on a 1-yard Derrick Henry run to take a 10-point lead into halftime.
"I don't know how hard [Smith's contact] was or anything like that, that's not for me to judge really, but it's unnecessary to even try to do something in that situation," Harbaugh said. "I just wish he hadn't done it."
The Ravens got the ball first at the start of the second half, but the drive was halted by a Flacco mistake. On third-and-4, Flacco threw deep to the sideline off his back foot. The pass was intended for tight end Benjamin Watson, but Byard instead got his second pick of the game.
"When I look back at the game and look at my decisions, that's one that I would want back," Flacco said. "I was trying to give him a chance there and trying to press forward too much, and in the type of game we were in, that's when you get in trouble."
The Ravens kept fighting to stay in the game, and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. With 51 seconds left, they needed to recover an onside kick to have a chance to tie or win the game. But one final mistake sealed Baltimore's fate.
Kicker Justin Tucker tried a trick onside kick, but it didn't travel the necessary 10 yards, so the Ravens didn't have a chance at making the recovery.
"I have a lot of faith in Justin, I know he's great at kicking some of those," Flacco said. "I've seen him in practice a bunch do different types of onside kicks. So I was actually pretty confident that we had a good shot at getting that."
Check out all the best photos from Tennessee as the Ravens battle the Titans.