Elvis Dumervil dropped his helmet and gazed aimlessly into the emptying seats. He stood in place for a moment and then dropped to one knee to say a prayer, a ritual that he does every time he steps on or off of a football field.
Football can be cruel sometimes. Dumervil surely knows this. He was inches away from getting his third sack, this one preserving a Ravens victory. Many of his defensive teammates saw the clock hit zero and had stopped playing and started celebrating.
Dumervil, though, kept coming, beating the man assigned to block him and honing in on Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. As Dumervil wrestled the quarterback to the ground, his hand yanked Bortles' face mask, an obvious penalty.
The game should have been over, yet the 15-yard face mask foul gave the Jaguars and their first-year kicker, Jason Myers, another chance. Myers had missed a 26-yard attempt in the third quarter, but from 53 yards and with no time on the clock, he split the uprights. The Ravens' 22-20 loss to the Jaguars in front of an announced 70,837 at M&T Bank Stadium provided yet another painful and stunning chapter in a season full of them.
"That was something else," Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson said. "I'm still trying to digest what happened, to be completely honest with you. I haven't been part of anything like that in a football game before. That was a painful first."
Jackson said that coach John Harbaugh told his 2-7 team after the game that "There's no words. We just need to learn how to win."
Harbaugh called it "about as tough a loss as you're ever going to see, you're ever going to have to deal with."
Many of the Ravens dressed in stunned silence. A couple angrily blasted the officials to teammates or yelled to nobody in particular. Dumervil loaded his equipment bag, making nary a sound until the silence was interrupted by a clothes hanger clanging at the bottom of his locker.
"I take full responsibility for that one," said Dumervil. "It can't happen. I saw the play clock, I saw the quarterback, I saw him hiking the ball. At that point, I knew it was not enough time to spike it. I figured they had to run a play, so I went after it — got to him. Can't do a penalty at that time."
Myers' game-winning field goal sent the Jaguars springing off the sideline to celebrate their third win, and their first victory on the road since Dec. 1, 2013. The Ravens, meanwhile, trudged back to their locker room, dealing with a mixture of shock and anger.
"It's painful," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "It's probably the worst one we've had this year for the simple fact that we controlled that game. Defensively, we beat them up, and we didn't come out with the win. It's very frustrating. We have nothing to show for the work we put in this week."
The Ravens had returned to practice last Monday following the bye, refreshed and reinvigorated. They spoke like an 8-0 second half was possible, if not probable. Today's loss pretty much douses any hope of a second-half run to the postseason.
When you've lost to the Cleveland Browns (2-7) and Jaguars (3-6) at home in the same season, and you can't beat the San Francisco 49ers (3-7) on the road, it's tough to maintain any optimism, try as the Ravens might.
"I really don't know what to say or feel at this point," Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. "All I know is that we need to put this behind us, and move on to St. Louis. There's really nothing more to say about this, and there's nothing we can do about this."
The focus following the game was on the chaotic last couple of seconds, which produced so many questions and laments.
Did the Jaguars get that final snap off before Dumervil's face mask? CBS replays showed that the ball was snapped just before the clock hit zero. Several Ravens, however, had their doubts.
Was everybody set on the play? Replays appeared to show that the Jaguars were, yet several of the Ravens started celebrating.
"We all thought the game was over, but we have to finish better," said Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who had his hands raised and his back to the play when the ball was snapped. "We kind of left 'Doom' out there alone. We can't stop like that."
And what exactly happened to Dumervil, who could have taken Bortles down in a number of legal ways?
"I don't know what else you can say about that," Harbaugh said. "You don't want to get a hand on a face mask there. Look at Elvis, how he's playing. The guy is playing out of his mind. He's playing with tremendous effort and energy and heart. It's a disappointing play, obviously. He's going to feel it more than anybody."
Several players rallied to Dumervil's defense.
"I thought we lost the game way before that," wide receiver Kamar Aiken said.
Two plays before the penalty, Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis had the game-ending interception in hands, and he dropped it. The Ravens broke their forced turnover drought at five games and 61 full possessions on Lardarius Webb's second-quarter interception, which led to Joe Flacco's 10-yard touchdown pass to Crockett Gillmore. But they dropped three other potential interceptions.
The Ravens also turned the ball over four times, three of them coming in a ghastly third quarter by Flacco, who was picked off twice by Devon House and also was strip-sacked on another play in Jaguars territory. Flacco finished 34-for-45 for 316 yards and threw three touchdown passes, but the third-quarter miscues prevented the Ravens from building a significant lead.
"You can look at how crazy it is no matter what," Flacco said. "We have chances to close these games out. We're just leaving room for stuff like this to happen."
Return man Jeremy Ross also muffed a punt early in the fourth quarter. With the help of Will Hill's third-down unnecessary roughness penalty — the Ravens had five 15-yard penalties on the day — the Jaguars converted the turnover into a touchdown as Bortles hit Allen Robinson for a 15-yard score and a 19-14 lead.
The Ravens answered as Flacco hit Chris Givens for a 14-yard touchdown pass with seven minutes, 30 seconds to play. It seemed that would be the game winner, but the Ravens found a new way to lose, and nobody took it harder than Dumervil.
"It's heartbreaking, man," Dumervil said. "Let the guys down on that play. It can't happen."