SEATTLE – The self-destructive, maddening side of the Baltimore Ravens showed up inexplicably for the third time this season, triggering yet another confusing letdown against one of the worst teams in the league.
Despite an intense point of emphasis about not faltering after an emotional victory, the Ravens were unable to handle success and squandered a prime opportunity to separate themselves from the AFC North pack.
Not even a dozen shots of strong espresso coffee could have awakened the Ravens as they experienced their third setback of the year following a big win, absorbing a puzzling loss 22-17 to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday before 66,522 at CenturyLink Field.
One week removed from sweeping the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens managed to fall short to a team that entered the game mired in a three-game losing streak.
"There’s the hard way and there’s the easy way and there’s the way we do it," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It’s like, ‘Let’s see how much we can spot them before we come back and win the game. We didn’t get it done. It’s just terrible. Despite everything that happened, we still had an opportunity to win this game and we didn’t get it done.
"It really sucks to lose this way. Our fans came all the way out here, they don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve to do this to ourselves. I’m just disgusted to lose like this, but we got to get over it. This one might be on the defense a little bit."
As kick returner David Reed fumbled away two kickoffs and kicker Billy Cundiff missed two long field goals in the first half, quarterback Joe Flacco tossed several errant passes and receivers dropped throws, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron practically ignored Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice in a manner eerily reminiscent to how they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this season.
The Ravens committed three turnovers.
"These are the kind of games you have to have, especially against teams you’re supposed to beat," fullback Vonta Leach said. "We came out flat."
The Ravens (6-3) lost for the fourth time in the John Harbaugh era to a team with a losing record despite the Seahawks (3-6) entering the game with more penalties (29) in their previous three games than points (28).
The second-most penalized team in the NFL, the Seahawks won despite committing 13 penalties for 100 yards and going 1 for 5 in the red zone as former Ravens kicker Steve Hauschka booted five field goals.
"We can’t come out lackadaisical," free safety Ed Reed said. "You got to win these games to be one of those elite teams like we’re claiming to be. If we’re claiming to be that team, we got to come out and play week to week. It can’t be elite one week and ‘Unnecessary Roughness’ the next week. It’s got to be every time."
It was a somewhat costly defeat.
Now, the Steelers (7-3), Ravens and Bengals (6-3) are all fighting for supremacy in the division with the Steelers a half-game ahead.
"We understand we’re going to be the target of a lot of criticism," Harbaugh said. "We understand that it’s going to be local, we understand that it’s going to be national. We understand that the fans are going to be very disappointed in the game and we’re very disappointed in the game.
"We had an opportunity here to do something, to separate ourselves a little bit in the division. We didn’t take advantage of it. That’s tough. We know we’re fully capable of bouncing back, we have to next week. We have to play our best football. We take full responsibility for this loss."
Rice was visibly upset on the field and on the sideline, touching the football 13 times for the same workload from the 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville. He rushed for only 27 yards on five carries, catching eight passes for 54 yards.
Afterward, Rice declined an interview request from 24×7 and apologized for not commenting. He said he’ll reserve his comments until Wednesday.
"I don’t want to say the wrong thing right now," Rice said.
By halftime, Rice had carried the football only four times for 19 yards with two receptions for six yards.
"Ray definitely has to get involved," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "I guess it was a situation where we were down and it kind of took him out of the game."
It was just like the Jacksonville game where Rice finished the game with only eight carries for 28 yards and five receptions for 35 yards.
That lack of involvement triggered blistering criticism inside and outside of the Ravens’ locker room with Suggs openly ripping the game plan.
"I’m not going to rip the coaches," center Matt Birk said. "Circumstances kind of dictate what happens to a certain extent. Most teams probably want to shut down Ray Rice. We still have to find a way when we do call his number, we got to block it up and get him to the second level and in positions where he’s at his best. When you’re trying to play catch-up and other teams know that, it’s hard to stay balanced."
Meanwhile, Seahawks powerful running back Marshawn Lynch punished a traditionally stingy defense for 109 yards and a touchdown while catching five passes for 58 yards.
All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis and several other defenders had a rough time tackling or keeping up with Lynch.
"Marshawn played really well, as advertised," Harbaugh said. "He played a heck of a game."
It was Lynch who pushed the pile for extra yards on the Seahawks’ final drive, picking up first downs to allow them to run out the clock during the final five minutes to end the game.
Lynch rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries in the fourth quarter.
"He leaned forward and got the extra yards that he needed, especially at the end," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "We didn’t do a good job of keeping him down when we needed to. He carried that offense on the last drive. He did a great job. He was the key."
The Ravens tried to climb back in the game as they chopped the Seahawks’ lead down to five points after an 11-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Dickson with 5:52 remaining in the game.
Dickson finished with a career-high 10 receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Flacco, though, missed too many deep throws despite launching a career-high 52 passes. He completed 29 of them for 255 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 67.4 passer rating.
"We had a long trip out here, we felt confident and to come in here and not be able to get that game of separation on everybody else in your division when you have a good shot to do that, it doesn’t feel good," Flacco said. "We know that we have to improve."
The Ravens’ offense never got back on the field again after Dickson’s second touchdown.
And they fell behind 19-7 at halftime, trailing 22-7 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We were down by five, putting our defense back on the field, and expecting to get the ball back very quickly," Flacco said. "They did a good job, and when you leave the game up to that, you’re kind of just hoping that you get another shot.
"When you don’t come out and play the way you need to from the very beginning, when you leave yourself in that kind of position, you have to be perfect. It’s tough to do that on a weekly basis."
Still, the Ravens lost to a Seahawks team that had scored only 20 points in the first quarter this season.
In the second quarter, the Ravens displayed some signs of life.
They manufactured a 13-play, 66-yard drive with familiar weapons: the shotgun formation and the no-huddle offense.
A 19-yard pass to Dickson positioned the Ravens for a bit of sleight of hand.
Flacco handed off to Rice, and the diminutive runner threw a lefty pass for a touchdown to Dickson against an unsuspecting Seahawks defense.
It was just the Ravens’ second touchdown in franchise history by a non-quarterback with former wide receiver Mark Clayton throwing a scoring pass to Derrick Mason against the Bengals three years ago.
That closed the gap to 10-7.
After falling behind 16-7 after Reed’s second fumble, the Seahawks scored again on a Hauschka field goal. The Ravens were unable to capitalize on a Cundiff field goal attempt as he missed from 52 yards at the end of the first half.
"I let my teammates down," Reed said. "It was bad. I don’t feel good at all."
The Bengals victimized inside linebacker Jameel McClain early in the game, exploiting his lack of range in pass coverage.
Lynch burst past McClain twice on catches out of the backfield for gains of 21 and 23 yards.
The second short pass set himself up at the Ravens’ one-yard line.
On the next play, Lynch busted into the end zone up the middle for the touchdown to stake the Seahawks to a 7-0 lead.
And that wasn’t all the mileage the Seahawks would get out of Lynch.
Benefiting from Reed’s first of two lost fumbles on kickoff returns when he crashed into the back of fullback Vonta Leach, Lynch carried the football on four consecutive plays.
Although he gained a total of only 15 yards, it got Hauschka in place for a 22-yard chip shot for the first of his five field goals.
Seattle had built a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with seemingly little effort.
The Ravens got off to a horrendous start, a beginning eerily reminiscent of previous road setbacks this year.
A promising opening drive was extinguished after rare wide receiver reverses called by Cameron worked on consecutive plays as Torrey Smith and Reed gained 16 yards apiece.
From there, though, the series unraveled for Baltimore.
The Ravens gained only five yards on the next three plays.
Then, long snapper Morgan Cox delivered a groundball fielded by holder Sam Koch. And that disrupted the timing for Cundiff on his 50-yard field goal try that was short of the crossbar.
On the Seahawks’ final drive, Lynch rushed for five, four, one, two, eight, seven and five yards for a total of 32 yards on seven carries and also caught a pass for eight yards. He picked up four first downs.
"Our defensive coordinator [Chuck Pagano], he’s coaching his ass off," Suggs said. "He’s putting in the work, putting us in the right spots. We can’t give teams help beating us. When you get them in third downs and third-and-longs, you’ve got to get off the field. We’ve got to reward our coach for the studies he’s doing. He’s putting us in the right spots.
"We’re just not executing. You’ve got to take your hat off to Seattle. They made plays when they needed to, but we consider ourselves a veteran defense, a championship defense, a very stingy defense. We gave them a lot of help beating us."
Now, the Ravens will look to regroup again as they prepare for Sunday’s home game against the surprising Bengals.
"It’s not the end of the world," Suggs said. "I remember the Super Bowl champs [Green Bay Packers] were 10-6. We’re not going to lose six games."