Pick-six at end of first half “changed the game” (plus injury notes)

The Ravens weren’t passing off any responsibility for what took place at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

They suffered a damaging 34-17 loss to the Broncos and it was their fault. Turnovers, one in particular, made the difference between Baltimore making a game of it with the AFC West champions and letting Denver win its ninth straight contest pretty easily.

After converting just one first down on its first six possessions, Baltimore finally was able to find its mojo with a little more than two minutes to go in the opening half.

Quarterback Joe Flacco drove the Ravens from their own 20-yard line to the Broncos’ 4 with the help of a 43-yard strike to Jacoby Jones and a 14-yard pass to Torrey Smith. Flacco tried to keep the run going, looking for Anquan Boldin in the end zone. But the play went horribly wrong.

Cornerback Chris Harris jumped in front of Boldin, intercepted the pass at the 2 and was gone - 98 yards down the Denver sideline for a touchdown. The Ravens were feet, if not inches away, from a completed touchdown pass that would’ve trimmed the Broncos’ lead to three heading into the half. But Baltimore instead went to the locker room trailing 17-0.

“I just made a mistake. There’s no other way to put that,” Flacco said. “I made a mistake. I wanted to have the fade and have him go to the flat. The guy undercut it and went the whole way, which is a mistake on my part.”

The Ravens were held to 119 yards in the first half and had no first downs until nearly eight minutes remained in the second quarter.

Those early struggles didn’t help, but Baltimore only found itself behind 10-0 heading into that late possession. Flacco’s “mistake” sent the game spinning in another direction.

“It’s a matter of going out there and not doing some of the simple things right early on,” Flacco said. “That took a while to get into that groove that we really needed to be successful. As much as we weren’t playing very well in the first half, we still had that opportunity at the end of it to go down there and put points on the board and put a touchdown on the board, and then get the ball coming out of the half. And that’s what changed the game. It’s a 14-point swing and that really hurt us.”

While that moment might have changed the complexion of the contest, it was just an all-around bad day for the Ravens.

They were outgained 350-278 by Denver, and perhaps the only reason it wasn’t worse is the Broncos drained 9:59 off the clock on their first possession of the fourth quarter, as both teams appeared to concede the result with the Ravens trailing 31-10.

Flacco had a weak performance, finishing 20-for-40 for 254 yards, two touchdowns, a lost fumble on his first drive and the key interception. He also took three sacks. The running game never got going either, as Ray Rice ended with just 38 yards on 12 carries while the team was limited to 56 yards on the ground.

Boldin was held without a catch for the first time since 2005. Boldin said the offensive woes had nothing to do with the Ravens playing their first game with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator.

“It’s not really about play calling,” he said. “It’s about the players on the field. Whatever is called, you’ve got to go out and execute it.”

Tight end Dennis Pitta was perhaps the only offensive standout, making seven catches for a career-high 125 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 61-yarder in the fourth quarter that was Baltimore’s longest play of the season.

Pitta now has seven touchdown grabs this year, tying Todd Heap for the Ravens’ single-season record for a tight end.

But there was far more to sneer at, like allowing running back Knowshon Moreno to run right up the middle, over and over, on his way to a 118-yard day. The Ravens also kept getting burned by Eric Decker, who kept connecting with Peyton Manning on comeback routes to finish with eight catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.

The Ravens didn’t have much success getting to Manning either, managing two sacks.

“We’re going to give credit where credit’s due,” Pitta said. “The Denver Broncos are a good football team all around - offensively, defensively and on special teams. As much as we would love to say it’s our fault - and a large part of it was - I feel like we shot ourselves in the foot a few times and made some uncharacteristic mistakes that we certainly can improve on and clean up. But at the same time, that’s a good football team, and they made it hard for us out there.”

Coach John Harbaugh had no problem owning up to who was at fault for the defeat.

“This is our loss. The last three losses were our losses,” he said. “We’ve got to do the things you need to do to win games. Obviously, we didn’t get a very fast start, we had some self-inflicted issues around halftime, some self-inflicted issues and we couldn’t get anything going until late. So that’s where we’re at. We own that, we understand that and we’re going to go work to improve.”

Notes: The Ravens sustained a handful of injuries with the key ones being concussions suffered by running back Bernard Pierce and Smith. Harbaugh said they both will be evaluated early this week.

Wideout Tandon Doss twisted ankle and left the game. Linebacker Albert McClellan had a hamstring issue, but returned to the game.