BALTIMORE -- In this snakebit season, the Ravens had already taken several stabs in the back.
Coming off a bye, they took a stake in the heart.
Elvis Dumervil’s late face mask penalty gave the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars a shot at a 53-yard field goal with no time left. Jason Myers drilled the kick through the west end zone uprights to give the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars a 22-20 win and likely end the Ravens’ playoff hopes.
It was the kind of sucker-punch loss no Ravens team has suffered, not even in the midst of the current lost campaign.
“Obviously, just about as tough a loss as you’re ever going to see, you’re ever going to have to deal with,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who had seen his team win 11 of its last 13 post-bye games. “Really, what we have to deal with right now is how we handle it, where we go forward from here.
“… [But] I liked a lot of what I saw throughout the course of the game.”
The fiercely-optimistic Harbaugh said those words, even after a game that featured nine penalties, four turnovers and several dropped passes and interceptions, including Kendrick Lewis’ possible game-clinching pick that was dropped before the Jags’ winning field goal.
The Ravens (2-7) have seen all nine of their games end with margins of eight points or less, an unprecedented streak in NFL history.
But it looked as though they would come out on the long end of this game and send 70,837 fans happy, even when a pass to Buck Allen came up short of the first down with just over a minute remaining and the Ravens leading, 20-19.
After punter Sam Koch booted his first touchback of the year, the Ravens lost containment on a 22-yard Blake Bortles scramble near midfield, and a late snap was ruled to have been executed just before the clock ran out on the Jaguars, who had no timeouts left.
With the play in progress, Dumervil -- who had two sacks earlier in the game, his first since October -- corralled Bortles for what would have been a game-ending sack, but his hand caught the quarterback’s face mask.
The penalty was assessed, giving Myers -- who had missed a 26-yarder earlier in the game -- his chance to win the game, and he easily converted.
“I’m speechless,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “Really, I have no words. I have never seen anything like this.”
The coach agreed.
“I don’t know what else you can say about that,” Harbaugh said. “… (Dumervil) is playing out of his mind. He’s playing with tremendous effort, energy and heart.”
The Ravens seemingly did so as a team as the game wore on.
After a slow start that had the fans booing, quarterback Joe Flacco (34-for-45, 316 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, one sack, 98 rating), who found a season-high ten different receivers, used a brisk tempo and a variety of targets to give his team the halftime lead.
But after a deadly accurate half that saw him complete 21 of 28 passes, Flacco threw two third-quarter interceptions to cornerback Davon House, then was sacked and fumbled the ball away at the Jags’ 41-yard line.
The Jaguars couldn’t capitalize on Flacco’s mistakes, getting one field goal from Myers and the shocking short miss to reduce a four-point halftime deficit to one, 14-13, at the end of three quarters.
The third-quarter standstill -- the teams combined for a mere 113 yards in the period -- left the game delicately poised, ready to turn on one big break.
Ravens punt returner Jeremy Ross provided it with his second fumbled punt of the season, one recovered by the Jaguars at the Ravens’ 37-yard line. On third-and-12, another break came the visitors’ way when Will Hill was called for a hit on a defenseless receiver.
Two plays later, Bortles found Allen Robinson for a 15-yard go-ahead touchdown. A two-point conversion pass was incomplete, but the visitors led, 19-14.
Flacco then led an 80-yard, 10-play drive that ended with a 14-yard strike to Chris Givens (37 yards, four catches, TD), the second Raven to make his first scoring catch with the team after Maxx Williams (40, four, TD). The Ravens also tried a two-point conversion pass, but it fell incomplete, clutching to a 20-19 lead.
Receivers Robinson (51 yards, five catches, TD) and Allen Hurns (62, five, TD) were the top targets as they have been all season for Jacksonville. The two receivers are only the third tandem to post 600 yards and six touchdowns apiece since the 1970 merger.
Meanwhile, the Ravens used a short-pass attack to move into Jaguars territory on each of their first two drives. It was a tactic that would benefit them through a first half that saw Flacco display his most accurate form of the year.
But when a pass to Crockett Gillmore (42 yards, four catches, touchdown) came up short on fourth down, the visitors were handed their best field position of the day.
At that point, the Ravens’ eagerness to get after Bortles (22-for-45, 188 yards, two touchdowns, interception, three sacks, 65.8 rating) -- whom they sacked eight times when the teams met last year -- cost them dearly.
Defensive penalties on Hill and ex-Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith put the ball on the Ravens’ 6-yard line. Two plays later, Bortles found Hurns in the end zone -- after an ill-timed Jimmy Smith slip -- for the game’s first points after an eight-play, 65-yard drive.
After 21 quarters and 66 opponents’ drives, Lardarius Webb finally broke the Ravens’ turnover drought by intercepting a scrambling Bortles, at the Jags’ 26-yard line. It was Baltimore’s fifth takeaway and its fourth interception of the year.
After Flacco scrambled for 16 yards, he fired a bullet over the middle to Gillmore for the game-tying touchdown with 11:32 to go before halftime.
Three passes to Chris Givens passes helped open up the field. Rookie tight end and second-round pick Williams got down the seam and caught a 21-yard touchdown from Flacco to complete an 80-yard, seven-play possession and give the Ravens a 14-10 halftime edge.
“We worked hard in the last two weeks to be a better football team,” Harbaugh said. “… But we turned the ball over too much, and we didn’t finish the game.”
On this day, a stake in the heart may have finished off the Ravens.
Joe Platania has been covering professional football since 1994.