Joe Flacco and the offense finished Sunday's game with their best drive of the day. The group took just six plays to march 81 yards for a touchdown, putting the Ravens in position to tie the contest.
A missed extra point kept the game from going to overtime, but as the Ravens dissected their 24-23 loss at M&T Bank Stadium, the offense wasn't interested in pointing the finger at anyone else. Flacco and several players stressed that they missed some key opportunities to put themselves in better position for the win.
"It would have been great if we weren't in that situation," Flacco said about Baltimore needing the late touchdown to win the game. "We did a lot of things well today, but I just felt like we left a little bit out there at times."
Flacco specifically pointed to the unit's inability to get points on their second-to-last drive. The Ravens turned the ball over on downs on that series when a fourth-down pass hit off the hands of wide receiver Willie Snead IV. Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst also had a big completion knocked out of his hands that would have put the Ravens inside the red zone two plays earlier.
"I was just trying to get open and saw the ball in the air and I wish I could have that one back and turn my hands the other way," Snead said about the fourth-down play. "It's just one of those plays that I pride myself on making."
Snead, who was playing against his former team, also criticized himself for a drop he had earlier in the game. He finished with a season-low three catches for 23 yards and had a 13-yard run.
"I didn't play my best game today, and I know that," Snead said. "This is a great opportunity to continue to get better and continue to be critical and make sure I do make those plays the next time."
The Ravens knew coming into the game that the offense would need to play at a high level. New Orleans has the NFL's all-time leading passer in quarterback Drew Brees, who had the Saints offense ranked first in the NFL.
The contest didn't turn into a shootout, but the Ravens needed more from their offense down the stretch. After building a 10-point lead late in the third quarter, the offense was unable to get points on their next two series. New Orleans then went on a 17-point run before the Ravens made their last-minute comeback attempt.
"We just didn't make the plays at the end there to keep the lead," veteran lineman Marshal Yanda said. "We had a 10-point lead. No excuses. They made the plays when they needed to and we didn't."
The offense did have a tough assignment Sunday, particularly in the trenches. Starting left guard Alex Lewis (neck) and right tackle James Hurst (back) were both sidelined, meaning that rookies Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown Jr. had to step into the starting lineup for the first time. Bozeman was also clearly hobbled by a calf injury for much of the game.
Despite being shorthanded, the line held up well and only allowed Flacco to get sacked once.
"There are no excuses that are going to be made," Yanda said. "The guys step up and you play and the production level is still expected. We expect the guys to go in and play well. This is the NFL and injuries happen. We fought our tails off and just came up short."
Baltimore's defense entered the weekend sitting atop the NFL in a variety of categories. The group has been one of the league's best units throughout the season, and Sunday was the first time they allowed a second-half touchdown all year.
Snead stressed that the Ravens are confident the defense will be able to keep them in most games moving forward, and the responsibility will fall on the offense to deliver more production down the stretch.
"At the end of the day, we have a great defense," Snead said. "Most of those games are going to come down to the offense – us having possessions, moving the sticks and scoring points.
"That's just me, honestly. I think all of these games are going to be in our hands. The defense is going to take care of us. When it comes down to it, we just have to put up the points."