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Ravens 27, Broncos 14: Why it happened

BALTIMORE -- Denver's history of struggles at M&T Bank Stadium persisted like the steady rain that hit Sunday as the Broncos fell to the Ravens, 27-14.

After an opening flourish that saw the Broncos score 14 first-quarter points for the first time since Dec. 20, 2015, little went right for the Broncos, as Baltimore scored 20 unanswered points to hand Denver its 10th loss in its last 11 road games.

The worst aspect of the defeat for the Broncos is that most of their wounds were self-inflicted.

"We beat ourselves more than they beat us today," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.

The Broncos racked up 120 yards in penalties -- their highest total in 37 their last regular-season games.

"A lot of the penalties were really guys losing their composure. We can't do that," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "You're playing a tough Baltimore team on the road and you have 13 penalties for 120 yards and it really honestly cost us 20 points out there.

"That obviously killed us today."

Here are the biggest reasons why the Broncos fell to 2-1:

Because of untimely penalties

It wasn't simply the penalties themselves. It was the timing of them that exacted the deepest toll on Denver's hopes.

First and foremost was an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty during Harris' 58-yard return of Justin Simmons' blocked field goal, a penalty that negated what looked to be a game-turning touchdown.

"I couldn't believe it, man. I think it changed the game. I think the whole game just changed after that play," Harris said.

"We would have been up. We would have had great momentum going into the half and having the ball back, but it didn't work out like that."

Nevertheless, the Broncos rebounded. Phillip Lindsay picked up 15 yards on two carries. A Case Keenum-to-Emmanuel Sanders connection moved the Broncos to the Baltimore 25-yard line before Keenum was sacked by Terrell Suggs, leading to a fumble that caused a scrum in which Phillip Lindsay was flagged for throwing a punch.

The Broncos had lost 12 yards on the sack and fumble, which right tackle Jared Veldheer recovered. Lindsay's 15-yard infraction pushed Denver back 15 more yards to its 48-yard line and cost the Broncos something more -- Lindsay himself. Referee Ronald Torbert ejected the rookie running back from the game, robbing the Broncos of one of their most potent big-play threats.

"I feel horrible, because I'm not out there with my team, and that's my fault," Lindsay said. "It's something I'm going to learn from. It's never going to happen again."

Despite the absence of the explosive Lindsay, Denver's offense regrouped. Late in the third quarter, the Broncos marched to the Baltimore 27-yard line. Earlier on the drive, they overcame a Garett Bolles holding penalty, getting out of that with a 22-yard Keenum-to-Demaryius Thomas connection down the right sideline. But two more penalties cost the Broncos any shot at points.

The first, a holding call against right guard Connor McGovern, knocked the Broncos back to second-and-16 at the Baltimore 41-yard line. A Ravens offside penalty and a 9-yard Keenum-to-Sanders undid the damage. But when the officials flagged Ron Leary for an unnecessary-roughness call after a third-down incompletion, the Broncos had fourth-and-17 at the Baltimore 42, and a 45-yard Brandon McManus field-goal attempt was now a punt.

Because the defense couldn't get the Ravens off the field quickly

Denver's defense had a ferocious start to the game, as a Bradley Chubb sack of Joe Flacco forced Baltimore's offense to the sideline, setting up Joe Jones' block of Sam Koch's punt and Royce Freeman's 6-yard touchdown run one play after that.

From that point forward, the Ravens managed to sustain their drives. Each of their next nine possessions resulted in at least one first down. During that stretch, the only time Baltimore failed to run at least five plays on a series was in the final seconds of the first half when a four-play, 16-yard drive resulted in Justin Tucker's second 52-yard field goal of the game.

Early in the game, second down represented the most damaging scenario. After their first possession, Baltimore averaged 7.5 yards per second-down play for the rest of the first half.

As the contest progressed, third down became the down of doom. Baltimore failed to convert its first three third-down chances, but then converted seven of its next nine, including seven of eight chances from nine or fewer yards.

Penalties also gave the Ravens a pair of first downs.

Because the Broncos lost the red-zone battle

Baltimore came into the game having scored touchdowns on all of its drives that crossed their opponent's 20-yard line. The team sustained its flawless work, converting all three red-zone trips into touchdowns Sunday.

Denver, meanwhile, went 1-of-3 on its red-zone chances, scoring only on the 1-play, 6-yard drive that was set up by Jones' block of a Koch punt early in the first quarter.

The first red-zone failure came when Patrick Onwuasor intercepted Keenum, ending the Broncos' first fourth-quarter scoring threat with 9:01 remaining in the game.

Denver marched downfield once again after forcing a Baltimore three-and-out, but that drive went askew when the Broncos were called for too many men in the huddle, turning fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 6-yard-line into fourth-and-6. A Keenum attempt to Butt then fell incomplete, ending the Broncos' hopes of a comeback.

Because the passing game didn't sustain momentum until late

In the first three quarters, the Broncos averaged just 3.54 yards per pass play, as Case Keenum went 12-of-21 for 104 yards and was sacked three times for 19 yards in losses.

Keenum went 10-of-13 for 88 yards in the fourth quarter, but both drives ended without points.

"I sat there and said in the huddle, 'Guys, two times seven is 14, and we're only down 13 here. Let's go do something.' And we put together two drives. We got down there inside the 10 and just didn't come away with points at the time," he said.

"To play as bad as it felt at times and still have a chance to be in the ballgame, I think that we can be really good."

Photos from Broncos team photographers of game action during the Broncos' game against the Ravens.

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