JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Stifling stops against the run.
Relentless pressure on the quarterback. A struggle just to make a first down. It was the kind of defense expected when the Baltimore Ravens play.
Only this time, it happened to them.
The Ravens (4-2) pitched the wrong kind of shutout Monday night in a 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars when they went an entire half without getting a first down, and didn’t have a drive lasting more than three plays until late in the third quarter.
Joe Flacco completed two straight passes for negative yards, one that he caught himself. Ray Rice carried only eight times for 28 yards, with only one run longer than 4 yards.
“They basically beat us with their defense,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t think it was only one thing. It was a lack of execution. They outplayed us one-on-one. It’s about as bad as you can play on offense.”
Harbaugh didn’t see this one coming.
The Jaguars (2-5) were a team in disarray, losers of five straight games, and eight of nine dating to last year. They had a strong defense of their own, for sure, along with the worst offense in the league.
The Ravens did their part on defense, as usual.
Ed Reed’s low hit on Maurice Jones-Drew caused a fumble at the goal line in the first quarter. Mike Thomas returned a punt 28 yards to give the Jaguars the ball on the Baltimore 31, and the Ravens’ drove them back three yards and made them settle for a 54-yard field goal from Josh Scobee.
Scobee added another field goal from 54 yards in the second quarter, and Baltimore made the Jaguars settle for a 22-yard field goal when they were first-and-goal from the 3 after a personal foul on Brendon Ayanbadejo that got him ejected.
That’s what was so maddening about this loss.
For everything that went wrong on offense — 16 yards in the first half, only 57 yards through three quarters — the Ravens were still in the game. They just couldn’t score until it was too late.
Flacco threw for just 37 yards going into the fourth quarter until the Jaguars gave him a cushion toward the end of the game and, going with a no-huddle offense, he drove the Ravens 90 yards by completing 10 of 13 passes. Flacco found Anquan Boldin in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:02 left in the game to get to 9-7.
But the onside kick by Billy Cundiff, recovered by the Ravens, came within inches of going the required 10 yards before bouncing back. Jacksonville managed one more field goal by Scobee.
With the late scoring drive, Flacco put up respectable numbers — 21 of 38 for 137 yards, his lone interception coming on the final drive when Drew Coleman stepped in front of his pass in the middle of the field.
“Bad football,” Flacco said. “They’re a physical defense and we were able to give them momentum, and keep the momentum at home.”
Flacco couldn’t find receivers downfield and didn’t have much time to throw. He was sacked three times and under constant pressure for most of the night. Even so, the Ravens were down only at 6-0 at halftime, and fully expected to win the game despite not having a first down and only 16 yards at halftime — the fewest the Jaguars have ever given up in one half.
He expects to take the brunt of the blame for this miserable performance.
“They look at the quarterback when things are good, and they look at the quarterback when things are bad,” Flacco said. “We weren’t playing consistently on offense. It’s going to get better. We’re a young team. We need to make sure when we’re not on our ‘A’ game, we’re not this.”
Baltimore, which came into the game averaging 375.2 yards a game, finished with 146 yards — 89 of those in the fourth quarter.
“There’s no excuse for that,” Boldin said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They played like it was their Super Bowl. We all know we have the talent in this locker room.”
If there was a series that define the hapless offense of the Ravens in this game, it came early in the second quarter when they started in Jacksonville territory for the first time. Flacco completed one pass for a loss of five yards to Dennis Pitta.
Michael Oher was called for holding, Rice dropped a short pass over the middle and Oher was called for holding again.
Just like that, it was third-and-35 from their own 30. And on the next play, Jeremy Mincey came charging at Flacco and swatted down his pass into Flacco’s arms. He took off running for the sideline and didn’t make it, slung to the ground by Paul Posluszny for an 8-yard loss that forced yet another punt.
As for the defense, the Ravens held Jacksonville to 205 yards. That’s no great feat, considering Jacksonville ranked last in offense. But it gave up a 100-yard rusher for the first time all year, as Jones-Drew ran for 105 on 30 carries.
“It baffles me,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said, noting that Rice only had eight carries to 30 for Jones-Drew. “They fed their horse. We’ve got to feed our horse. But don’t forget to give credit to Jacksonville.”
The Ravens now have two losses, same as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the AFC North. This was a game they were supposed to win, and Suggs called it a low point even this early in the season.
“We have to get over it quick,” Suggs said. “We can’t drop any more games like this.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)