ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Even after four interceptions, countless other issues offensively and problems stopping the run on defense, the Ravens still had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win the game.
Mistakes and miscues, especially offensively, were a large part of what got Baltimore behind in the first place. And in the end, it was one final mistake - and another Joe Flacco interception - that cost the Ravens a chance at a comeback victory and allowed the Buffalo Bills to hold on for a 23-20 win Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Regardless of how close the final score may have been, it was an ugly loss for Baltimore, something coach John Harbaugh and Ravens players acknowledged afterward.
Flacco threw a career-high five interceptions. Baltimore struggled to run the ball during the first half and later abandoned the running game altogether. The offensive line struggled. And the defense that had played so well during the previous two games, especially against the run, gave up more than 200 yards on the ground and 20 points during the first half.
"We just didn't play well," Harbaugh said. "We didn't play well at all. I'll take responsibility for that. It was a poor performance.
"We didn't make plays, especially on offense. We allowed them to run the ball, especially between the tackles in the first half. We had missed assignments in pass protection that cost us a couple sacks. And then we had turnovers. When you have five turnovers, that's going to challenge you."
The Ravens did battle back after trailing 20-7 at halftime and by nine points as late as midway through the fourth quarter.
They had the ball down by three with just more than a minute left in the fourth quarter and were nearly in range for a game-tying field goal attempt for Justin Tucker, but Flacco's final interception sealed the win for Buffalo.
Flacco threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, but he completed just 25 of his 50 pass attempts and had the five interceptions against a Bills secondary that was without three of its top four cornerbacks and later lost another, Aaron Williams, to a lower back injury.
Buffalo played primarily press-man coverage.
"We expected them to do that," Flacco said. "We felt we could take advantage of it. But like I said, you throw the ball to them five times, you don't keep yourself on the field and give yourself enough opportunities to take advantage."
It wasn't just the interceptions.
Baltimore struggled to move the ball for large portions of its first three games. Sunday was no different.
The surprising part was that Flacco and the passing game struggled as much as they did against a banged-up Bills secondary and that Ravens running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce had as little success as they did versus a Buffalo defense that entered the game as one of the NFL's worst against the run.
Rice and Pierce combined for just 15 yards on seven first-half carries. Baltimore ran the ball just twice in the second half largely due to those first half struggles.
The Ravens finished with 345 yards, but 139 of those yards came during the fourth quarter.
Counting the interceptions, nine of Baltimore's first 14 possessions during the first three quarters ended in either a three-and-out or a turnover, including eight of its first 11.
The Ravens were just 3 of 16 on third down and had five offensive penalties.
"I think that obviously you want to be a team that can run and throw the ball and be very balanced. That's our goal," Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "Again, we're still working towards that. It's still early in the year. Somehow, some way we were still in this game, and we have to try to find a way to win the tough games [and] not shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties.
"Same thing two games in a row on offense. We're starting from behind the count because we're having penalties and things like that."
The defense was part of the problem Sunday as well, though, at least in the first half.
Baltimore allowed just 3.4 yards per carry in its first three games, but the Bills were consistently successful running the ball Sunday.
As a team, Buffalo averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, but it ran for 203 yards, including 116 in the first half.
Behind the running the game, the Bills had four first half scoring drives, including two that ended in touchdowns.
Buffalo running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller both missed time during the second half because of injuries, but Jackson finished with 87 yards and a touchdown and Spiller had 77 yards.
Jackson's touchdown, a 16-yard run, gave a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
But the Ravens' defense started to play better after that touchdown run.
The Bills went scoreless on their six next possessions. And despite all of the issues during the first half, Baltimore cut its deficit to just 20-14 midway through on third quarter when Flacco found Smith for a 26-yard touchdown,
But while Baltimore's defense held Buffalo to just three points the rest of the way, the Ravens' offense had to settle for field goals on two promising drives during the fourth quarter and was then unable to produce either a game-tying or game-winning score on that last possession.
"We did some things that hurt us," Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "But all we ask is to give ourselves a chance to win at the end. We did that. They just made one more play."