BALTIMORE -- Another week, another excruciating one-score loss for the Denver Broncos.
But Sunday's later stumble may push their pain tolerance to the limit. The Baltimore Ravens went 91 yards on 16 plays with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to score their only touchdown of the day with 28 seconds left in the game for a 10-9 win over the Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.
“This one sucks,’’ Broncos safety Justin Simmons said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win and defensively we didn’t pull it out. Can’t play three and half quarters of good football and give up the two-minute drive at the end and be satisfied with that.’’
“We did some good things,'' said guard Dalton Risner. " … But it doesn’t count if we only do it for just one half.’’
For the 3-9 Broncos, Sunday was:
-- Their eighth loss of the season when they scored 16 or fewer points.
-- Their seventh loss of the year by a touchdown or less.
-- Their fifth loss of the season of a game they led at halftime.
-- Their third loss of the season when they didn’t score a touchdown.
-- Their fourth loss of the season when their defense, has not been able to hold its ground in the final minutes.
“That’s what sucks,’’ Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton said. “ … No matter how you get there, [the score] could have been 42-41, we’ve got to stop them on the last drive. Doesn’t matter how we get there, we’ve got to get there on the last drive.’’
The Broncos do have a win over one of the league's heavyweight sluggers this season -- 11-10 over the physical San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. And Sunday, with Baltimore starting quarterback Lamar Jackson having left in the first half with a knee injury, the Broncos had a 9-3 lead over the run-first Ravens with 3:58 to go in the third quarter.
And by the time the Ravens took over at their own 9-yard line with 5:02 left the in the game, Baltimore had punted six times, had 133 net yards passing and been intercepted twice -- both by Simmons.
But the Broncos turned those two second-half interceptions, one at the Ravens’ 40-yard line and the other in the Broncos’ end zone, into just a field goal. And even with 91 yards to go for the Ravens to earn the win, those lost points in another historically difficult day for the Broncos’ offense removed virtually all of the margin for error for a Broncos team that has now lost eight of the last nine games.
“Can’t play a great game the whole game and not down to the last second,’’ Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “We just have to find a way to finish these games … everybody is trying to do everything they can, I give them credit for that, but it hurts to lose, especially that way."
During the game-winning drive, the Ravens converted one fourth-down play with tight end Mark Andrews taking the snap. They were also aided by a personal foul on Singleton for a hit on Andrews to go with a pass interference penalty on cornerback Pat Surtain II.
A fumble forced by Simmons in that final drive rolled out of bounds, so the Ravens maintained possession as Huntley put together a timely scramble or two to go with a selection of short completions. Huntley capped it all off with a 2-yard run with 28 seconds to play.
Asked what it would have taken for the Broncos to escape Sunday, linebacker Jonathon Cooper didn’t hesitate.
“Stop ‘em,’’ Cooper said. “We have to get a stop, we have to get a turnover, we have to get off on fourth down, whatever it takes, whatever it takes to get our offense back on the field, that’s our job as a defense … We didn’t do that.’’