BALTIMORE (AP) — Joe Flacco lay face down on the turf, his lip bloodied. He paused for a few seconds of painful reflection after his futile chase of Denver cornerback Chris Harris ended with the Broncos celebrating a touchdown.
The scene typified a miserable afternoon for the Baltimore Ravens, who derived very little benefit from first-time offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell in a 34-17 defeat on Sunday.
Of all the Ravens' miscues, Flacco's ill-timed throw was the most damaging.
Baltimore (9-5) trailed 10-0 and had a first-and-goal at the Denver 4 late in the first half when Harris stepped in front of Anquan Boldin and sprinted down the right sideline en route to the longest interception return in Broncos regular-season history.
"I made a mistake, no other way to say it," Flacco said. "I wanted to have a fade, came down flat. The guy undercut it, picked it and went the whole way."
The right side of Flacco's face was bloody and bruised, much like the Ravens' usual swagger after their third straight loss.
"We're a 9-5 football team and we feel like we're 0-14 right now," Flacco said.
Safety Ed Reed added: "As a player, I am embarrassed for our city."
Baltimore has lost three straight — including two in a row at home for the first time since December 2007. The Ravens trailed 31-3 in the fourth quarter before Flacco threw touchdown passes of 31 and 61 yards to tight end Dennis Pitta.
"We couldn't get anything going until late," coach John Harbaugh said.
Despite the loss, Baltimore qualified for the playoffs when Pittsburgh lost to Dallas on Sunday night. The Ravens are assured a wild-card berth but hope to go as AFC North champions — they hold a one-game lead over Cincinnati with two games left.
Peyton Manning threw for 204 yards and a touchdown in his ninth consecutive win against Baltimore, the first with the Broncos (11-3).
But he was merely a role player in this one, because Denver's defense dominated the Ravens. This was supposed to be a test for the Broncos, who were 0-5 in Baltimore and eager to face a quality opponent on the road.
"You come to the Ravens' house and beat them handily, it's definitely a statement game," Harris said. "We definitely wanted to show to everybody that we're an elite team."
The Ravens were playing their first game under Caldwell, who replaced the fired Cam Cameron. Baltimore's offense sputtered in the first half, gaining only 119 yards and committing two turnovers that led to 10 Denver points.
Caldwell's first crack at being an NFL offensive coordinator was a resounding flop. Flacco went 20 for 40 for 254 yards, lost a fumble and threw an interception. Ray Rice ran for 38 yards on 12 carries and the Ravens produced a meager 56 yards rushing.