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Ravens' final drive falls short, offense regresses in 20-13 loss to Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – The mistakes came early and late.

Steve Smith fumbled the first pass Joe Flacco threw. Torrey Smith dropped the last one, a sideline opportunity that would have kept the Ravens’ comeback hopes alive, if only for a little longer.

In between, the Ravens defense accomplished much of what they wanted against the NFL’s highest-scoring team, only to watch their own offense falter repeatedly. A 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts before an announced crowd of 65,258 at Lucas Oil Stadium was a definite missed opportunity for the Ravens, who did all the things that they avoided doing during their three-game winning streak.

The loss dropped them to 3-2 on the season and 0-5 all-time in Indianapolis.

“We just know when you go on the road and you play a team like this, you can’t make the mistakes,” said Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. “I think, if anything, it’s all the mistakes that we made, very basic, just stupid mistakes that cost us the game.”

Smith went through them one-by-one, as did Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, who said the finger-pointing for the team’s poor offensive performance should be aimed at him. It was an admirable gesture, but the reality was that there was plenty of blame to go around.

The Ravens turned the ball over three times, leading to 10 Colts’ points. Flacco was sacked four times after being kept clean for the previous three games. The Ravens went just 1-for-11 on third down, and 1-for-3 on fourth, including getting stopped on a fourth-and-1 on the Colts’ 3-yard line early in the second quarter.

They missed blocking assignments and dropped passes, and the offense’s failure to sustain a drive led to Andrew Luck and the Colts keeping possession for nearly 39 of the game’s 60 minutes, wearing the Ravens’ defense down late in the game.

“It started with the first play out of the gates,” said Flacco, referring to Steve Smith’s fumble following a 4-yard reception. “We made too many mistakes. We didn’t convert first downs and I don’t think we put ourselves in very good positions to convert a handful of those. Any time you turn the ball over and you’re not keeping yourselves on the field, it’s going to be tough to win. We just didn’t put it together.”

Yet after Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled with the Colts on their opponent’s 10-yard line and trying to put the game away, the Ravens had the ball back and nearly two minutes to try to put together a game-tying drive.

Sure, they were 90 yards away from the end zone and had only one timeout, but Flacco had done it before. However, he was sacked on first down as rookie left tackle James Hurst, who struggled most of the afternoon, was beaten by Bjoern Werner.

The Ravens converted on one fourth down as Flacco hit tight end Owen Daniels down the middle for an 18-yard gain. He threw incomplete on first and second down before a 7-yard completion to Torrey Smith set up a fourth-and-3 from the Ravens 43.

Flacco got exactly the look he wanted – one-on-one coverage on the outside - and lofted a nifty pass over the hands of a Colts’ defender, and Torrey Smith’s left shoulder. Smith, who ran a go route, got both hands on it but the ball bounced away.

“At that point in the game, you are really looking to get a shot like that and take it,” said Flacco who finished the game 22-of-38 for 235 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and a 65.1 quarterback rating. “If we converted that, we still had to get to a point where they would allow us to take some kind of shot, so that was just as good of a chance as ever and we just didn’t make the play.”

Said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh: “It was catchable. I mean, it was a tough catch. It was a very challenging play to make.”

Torrey Smith, who caught three passes for 38 yards in another disappointing outing, declined to speak to reporters outside the locker room after the game, though he said on his Twitter account that he was “sick right now,” acknowledging that he is having a “trying time” on and off the field.       

Other Ravens lamented a slew of missed opportunities and miscues that prevented them from winning even on a day in which the Ravens held Indianapolis to 14 points below their season average, and forced four turnovers. It marked the first time the Colts’ offense won a game in which they turned the ball over four times or more since Oct. 29, 2000 against the Detroit Lions.

“I think we played about as poorly as we've played in a while,” said Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah. “We turned the ball over. We had penalties. We had mental [mistakes]. It's an opportunity for us to learn that we can't do that and win games. We’ve been playing some pretty good football. We haven’t made mental mistakes or turned the ball over or had penalties until today. It’s a wake-up call.”

The reality was that the Ravens kept it close only because their defense was opportunistic and its stingy self inside their own end. The Ravens, who have the league’s No. 1-ranked red zone defense, watched Luck drive the Colts inside their 21-yard line seven times.

Yet, two of those possessions ended with Colts turnovers, one ended with a fourth-down stop and the Ravens held Indianapolis to field goals by Adam Vinatieri on two more. The only two exceptions were Luck’s 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Allen that gave the Colts a 13-3 lead early in the quarter, and the quarterback’s 13-yard touchdown run at the 8:56 mark of the fourth.

“He made a play. He’s one of those quarterbacks – he doesn’t scramble to throw – he tries to score every time he gets out there. That’s what he did. He just made a good play,” said Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs. “We hit him a lot. Everybody keeps saying that. We just have to work on getting there a little bit faster. He wasn’t rattled, he made plays. He should be commended for that.”

Luck finished 32-of-49 for 312 yards and one touchdown, though he made his share of mistakes as well.

Two plays after the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones muffed a punt in the second quarter, Luck threw an interception to Haloti Ngata. Late in the third quarter, the Colts were deep in Ravens’ territory looking to build on a 10-point lead, but Luck was intercepted by Ravens rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley, who had a superb game with 14 tackles.

But again the Ravens, who pulled within 20-13 on Justin Forsett’s 11-yard touchdown run with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter, couldn’t convert.

“Not converting on third down, turnovers, just not getting in a rhythm, not playing well, not being consistent offensively. We just hurt our defense a lot [by] keeping them on the field,” said Steve Smith, who had five catches for 34 yards. “They kept giving us opportunity after opportunity, and we just kept misfiring as a whole.”

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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