Cincinnati—— Ray Lewis and the other conspiracy theorists blame the Ravens' 15-10 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals on two controversial penalties.
But the officials didn't take this AFC North game from the Ravens. Joe Flacco and the offense did.
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."
The heat is being placed on "Joe Cool" because of the shortcomings of an offense that added wide receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
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."