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Ravens' mistakes cost them again in 26-18 loss to Cardinals

Sometimes, it's a poorly-played quarter or even a sloppy half. Other times, it's a random play that usually occurs at the most inopportune time for the Ravens.

But if you watch the Ravens long enough during this 2015 season, you'll inevitably get a reminder of why a season that once held such most promise has dissolved into one of the most disappointing years in franchise history.

Late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' eventual 26-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Ravens had the ball on the 4-yard line and needed the touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie. But they couldn't. After trailing by 16 late in the fourth quarter, they had mounted a furious rally, but it came up short as Joe Flacco was intercepted by Tony Jefferson in the end zone with six seconds to play.

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens were fighting more than the Cardinals on that drive.

"The phones were going out. We lost our phones. There's always going to be some confusion. The good thing was that we got everything done fast. We didn't lose any time," Harbaugh said. "We'll go back and study it, but according to the clock, we got things done pretty darn quickly. But the phones were going out. [Flacco] couldn't hear [offensive coordinator] Mark [Trestman]. I don't know why the phones were going out on that drive, but they went out on that drive."

The interception was just the last in a flurry of mistakes. Late in the second quarter, the Ravens led 10-7. Running back Justin Forsett had culminated one of the Ravens' best drives all season with a nifty 14-yard touchdown run to give the visitors a three-point lead. The defense forced a three-and-out. They weren't controlling the game by any means. But Flacco was making enough plays down the field and the defense was doing just enough to contain the high-powered Cardinals.

But then it happened. Jeremy Ross, who had given the Ravens a recent lift in the return game, caught Drew Butler's punt at his team's 16-yard line. He stepped out of a few tackles and got a few extra-effort yards upfield. But just as he was going down to the ground, Justin Bethel stripped him of the football.

At the same time Bethel was emerging from the pile with the football, Asa Jackson was being called for a foolish unnecessary roughness penalty for an altercation he was involved in near the end zone. Instead of the Ravens having the ball and an opportunity to build on their narrow lead, Arizona had possession on the Ravens' 12-yard line.

Five plays later — the two pass interference calls on the Ravens don't count as official plays — Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd for a 3-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal and the Cardinals led 14-10.

"That stuff is always tough," Ross said. "You can't make the critical mistakes in pressure situations. We just tried to bounce back and move forward."

In front of a "Monday Night Football" audience, Arizona ran off 19 unanswered points at one point to put away the Ravens, whose losing streak extended to three games. The Ravens are now a franchise-worst 1-6 heading into Sunday's home game against the San Diego Chargers. The bye week then follows, and it can't come soon enough.

The Ravens also lost starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee), starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder), rookie wide receiver Darren Waller (leg) and rookie cornerback Tray Walker (concussion protocol) to injuries during the game.

Injuries remain a major concern, but the bigger picture reveals a team that can't get enough stops on defense and shows absolutely no consistency on offense. Sure, it was another one-possession loss. But the Ravens were badly outplayed in the second half by the Cardinals, who built on their four-point halftime lead with two chip-shot field goals by Chandler Catanzaro in the third quarter.

When Palmer hit John Brown for a 4-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, the Ravens seemed to be done. However, Catanzaro missed the extra point, leaving the score at 26-10.

With about 4 1/2 minutes remaining, the Cardinals still held a 16-point lead and were punting the ball away. However, Jackson broke through and blocked the punt, perhaps avenging his second-quarter mistake. Rookie running back Raheem Mostert recovered the ball at the Cardinals 1-yard line.

On the very next play, Flacco hit fullback Kyle Juszczyk for a 1-yard touchdown. He then found rookie tight end Nick Boyle on the 2-point conversion, making it a one-possession game. Suddenly, the Ravens had a little bit of life.

Coach John Harbaugh opted to kick the ball deep, and the Ravens defense finally forced a stop with just under two minutes to go. But a promising drive ended with Flacco's interception on a pass intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore in the end zone.

"That's really on me. When the ball is in the air, I've said it before, it should be mine," Gillmore said. "There's really no excuse. The team relies on me to make that play and he made a play."

Palmer completed 20 of 29 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't turn the ball over. In fact, the Ravens have gone four games and more than 17 quarters without forcing a turnover. Chris Johnson became the second opposing running back this season to rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens.

Johnson needed just 18 carries to rush for 122 yards and his night included a 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, in which he broke tackle attempts by Elvis Dumervil and Brynden Trawick and benefitted from Jimmy Smith taking a bad angle, and also a 62-yard run in the third quarter that led to a Cardinals field goal.

On that play, Johnson landed in nose tackle Brandon Williams' lap but he didn't hit the ground and the referees didn't blow the play dead. So, he kept running and the Ravens kept chasing with safety Will Hill finally pushing him out of bounds at the Ravens' 9-yard line.

"I thought he was on the ground," Williams said. "Usually when I tackle somebody, they are down. I thought he was down, but he wasn't. I'm not the referee. I can't make that call. But I thought he was down."

Despite trailing 14-10 at halftime, the Ravens did several things that they wanted to do against the Cardinals. They got on the scoreboard first, converting their first drive into points when Justin Tucker made a 44-yard field-goal attempt. It was the first time this season that the Ravens had any points to show for their first drive.

They controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for 18:27, while the Cardinals had it for just 11:33. They out-gained Arizona 168-155 and were far more successful on third downs, one of their major issues during the 1-5 start. On offense, they went 4-for-7 on third-down plays in the first half and their defense held the Cardinals to a 1-for-4 performance on third downs over the first 30 minutes.

Yet, thanks largely to the fumble by Ross and seven first-half penalties for 54 yards, the Ravens still trailed, as they would for the rest of the night.

"We've got to be good enough to overcome those things," Harbaugh said. "That's how we look at it. We'll find a way. We'll continue to find a way. This is a tough story we're writing right now. A lot of teams would fold their tent in this situation. Not the Ravens, it's not going to happen. We'll be writing a story. It's going to be a real interesting story to read before it's all said and done."

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