Flacco's career-high four interceptions ruined another suffocating effort by the Ravens defense and underscored everything that's wrong with a self-destructing passing attack.
The highly acclaimed wide receivers couldn't get open. The offensive line couldn't pass protect. And Flacco couldn't make the plays under pressure.
So while some players point their anger at the officials, no one can match the frustration felt by the underachieving Ravens offense.
"I don't think anyone feels good about it. It was a tough one for me," said Flacco, who had blood smeared on the left leg of his white pants. "We're 1-1 with 14 games left. We feel like we have a pretty good team. We just have to go out there and prove it."
Flacco's best drive came in the opening one of the second half, when he completed 4 of 5 passes for 69 yards. His 31-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason was his only completion over 20 yards and put the Ravens ahead, 7-6.
Take away that series and Flacco was 13 of 34 (38 percent) for 85 yards. His quarterback rating of 23.8 was the second-worst in 34 regular-season games.
"We can't put anything on Joe. Joe's going to be fine," tight end Todd Heap said. "The issue was our whole offense, not Joe. That was a collective group. I'm definitely not worried about Joe. You talk to any guy in here. Their confidence in Joe is still through the roof."
When a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Terrell Suggs staked the Bengals to a 12-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the Ravens offense still had chances to win the game. But the Ravens' final two drives ended with interceptions.
Flacco had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and was picked off by linebacker Brandon Johnson at the Ravens' 23-yard line. That allowed Cincinnati to extend its lead to 15-10 on a 25-yard field goal.
Then, on fourth-and-7 with 2:07 left in the game, Flacco threw a desperation pass over the middle, where he was intercepted by safety Chinedum Ndukwe.
That sealed the Ravens' sixth loss in eight meetings with the Bengals (1-1), the defending AFC North champions.
"Any pick is bad. Any interception is bad," said Flacco, who finished 17 of 39 for 154 yards. "You don't feel good about them."
The Ravens have turned the ball over seven times (five interceptions and two fumbles) in 26 drives this season.
"Any time you have four turnovers, you're not going to win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Maybe we could have pulled it out in the end, but we would have said the same thing. We shouldn't have won the game."
Those turnovers allowed the Bengals to start in Ravens' territory four times: at the Ravens' 35, 43, 11 and 46-yard lines. The Ravens' defense, though, held Cincinnati to two field goals and still hasn't allowed a touchdown in eight quarters this season.
"We put our defense in some bad situations and they kept bailing us out," Heap said. "When it was time for us to step up, we couldn't put it together."
Lewis believes it was the officials who bailed out the Bengals.
The emotional middle linebacker was called for tripping quarterback Carson Palmer late in the third quarter, which led to a field goal and a Cincinnati 9-7 lead. Lewis believes he was blocked into Palmer.
Then, Suggs was flagged for roughing the passer in the fourth quarter, which led to the game-winning field goal. It didn't appear as if Suggs had slammed Palmer in the ground, which is what the officials contend.
"Six points was given off of B.S.," Lewis said. "It's embarrassing that you can put them in field-goal range off of two calls like that when they couldn't get into the end zone themselves. That's why everybody straps up their helmets to make sure if you're going to earn it, earn it. But they didn't earn it today."
Gene Steratore, an official since 2003, explained the call, saying, "The roughing the passer as I defined it in my opinion on that play is the defender who has driven his body weight onto the quarterback as he's tackling him. He's applying his body weight on there. It's a judgment call and in my opinion I felt like he had driven himself into the ground with the quarterback."
Harbaugh said "it's hard for us to determine right now what roughing the passer is" because he argues that Suggs legally hit Palmer.
This isn't the first time that Suggs has received debatable roughing-the-passer penalties. He was flagged in 2008 against Tennessee and last season at New England, where his penalties played a major role in close losses.
"The NFL is going to do their best to protect the guys that pay their bills, which is the quarterbacks," Suggs said. "Maybe if it was a lesser quarterback, that call doesn't get thrown. I'm not going to change the way I play. I'm a physical player, and I was already engaged in him. If I had to do the play again, I would do it again."
Another teeth-gritting trend is the Ravens' lack of production against Cincinnati. In the past three meetings, the Ravens have scored only three offensive touchdowns.
On Sunday, the Ravens' offensive line struggled to even protect Flacco against a three-man rush. The receivers couldn't get separation from Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph and Pacman Jones. And the Ravens made it easier by abandoning the run game at times ( Ray Rice gained 87 yards on just 16 carries).
Flacco said the Bengals didn't do anything that surprised the Ravens, a sentiment shared throughout the locker room.
"Tip your hat to them," center Matt Birk said. "Their defense has given us all we can handle and then some the last year and a half. They played a good game today."
The Ravens now play the winless Cleveland Browns (0-2) at M&T Bank Stadium, which marks their first home game since Aug. 28.
"We're disappointed," Harbaugh said. "It's not going to make us. It's not going to break us."