After pulling off one Houdini-like act after another and limiting the Seattle Seahawks to field goals despite their advantageous field position, the Ravens defense needed to force the Seahawks to punt one more time and give the ball back to the Ravens' offense with less than five minutes left.
It didn't happen.
Seattle collected four first downs on its final series to run out the clock and the Ravens' hopes of avoiding a 22-17 loss at CenturyLink Field Sunday.
After the Ravens cut a 12-point deficit to five with 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks committed back-to-back 5-yard penalties to begin the drive. They started first-and-20 from their own 10-yard line.
But quarterback Tarvaris Jackson hit wide receiver Golden Tate for a 24-yard reception on third-and-5 from the 25. Then on third-and-5 from the Ravens' 46, Jackson connected with running back Marshawn Lynch, who faked linebackers Jarret Johnson and Ray Lewis to collect eight yards and the first down.
"We've done that time and time again," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said of stopping offenses. "Our defensive coordinator [Chuck Pagano], he's coaching his [butt] off. He's putting in the work, putting us in the right spots. We can't give teams help beating us.
"When you get them on third down and the third-and-longs, you got to get off the field. We got to reward our coach for the studying he's doing. He's putting us in the right spots. We just didn't get off the field. You got to take your hat off to Seattle. They made the plays that they needed to make. We consider ourselves a veteran defense, a championship defense, a very stingy defense. We gave them a lot of help beating us today."
With 109 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, Lynch joined the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew as running backs to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens. Jackson, who completed 17-of-27 passes for 217 yards, did not toss an interception, and was sacked just once. He finished with a higher passer rating than Joe Flacco (88.0 for Jackson to Flacco's 67.4).
Coach John Harbaugh didn't disagree when he was asked if the defense ran out of gas on that final series.
"Yeah, I think we could've made a couple plays here and there," he said. "They hit an underneath route one time, hit a seven-route another time – two opportunities to get off on third down. We usually do get off the field in those situations. Give them credit. They made plays in those situations. I thought Tarvaris Jackson did a heck of a job in those two situations making those two plays. In the end there with the run stuff, we would've have liked to have gotten off before that."
Harbaugh loses challenge
Harbaugh's run of successful replay challenges ended at five after his appeal to overturn the officiating crew's decision in the fourth quarter was denied.
After Lynch appeared to gain eight yards on second down-and-8 from the Ravens' 36 with two minutes left, Harbaugh threw his red flag after heeding his players' insistence that Lynch had lost the ball before hitting the turf. But the initial ruling on the field of a first down was upheld, and the Ravens lost their second timeout of the half.
"The guys felt very strongly that the ball was out before he was down," Harbaugh said. "We didn't have a look at it enough from upstairs. We would have liked to have it back. As it turned out, they got the first downs anyway. So it wouldn't have helped us, and maybe it was our last best chance to get the ball back as it turned out. That was probably a low-percentage possibility. We understood that."
Joe Flacco threw a career-high 52 times, completing 29 for 255 yards, but there are two incompletions the quarterback may wish he could have back.
On second down-and-7 from the Seahawks' 34-yard line, wide receiver Anquan Boldin appeared to have at least two steps on cornerback Richard Sherman while running a go route down the right sideline, but Flacco overthrew Boldin.
On third-and-10 from the Ravens' 27, rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith left Sherman behind on an out-and-up move along the right sideline, but Flacco put too much air under the ball again.
"I can't really think of them right now," Flacco said. "I'd have to go look at them."
E.Reed, Suggs start
Free safety Ed Reed and Suggs started in their customary positions against Seattle.
After Reed (shoulder) and Suggs (knee) missed Thursday's practice, both players fully participated in Friday's session and were listed as probable.
Center Matt Birk (neck), inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (post-concussion symptoms) and tight end Kris Wilson (calf) also played. Ayanbadejo had been listed as questionable, while Birk and Wilson were probable.
Wide receiver Lee Evans sat out his seventh straight game Sunday. He had been limited in practice all week by a lingering left ankle injury and had been described by the team as doubtful for the contest. In addition to Evans, the Ravens deactivated inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), offensive lineman Bryan Mattison, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle and three rookies in running back Anthony Allen, cornerback Chykie Brown and wide receiver Tandon Doss. … Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice (foot) and Jackson (pectoral) started against the Ravens. The Seahawks scratched quarterback Josh Portis, wide receiver Deon Butler, strong safety Jeron Johnson, cornerback Ron Parker, linebacker David Vobora, offensive tackle Jarriel King and tight end Cameron Morrah. … Right tackle Michael Oher, defensive end Cory Redding and linebacker Edgar Jones represented the Ravens for the coin toss.