Baltimore — On a day where the Pontiac Silverdome failed to properly implode, the team that called the stadium home for 27 years had no such issues.
With playoff implications hanging in the balance, the Lions went on the road and got rocked by the Ravens, 44-20, Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Despite an extended layoff following Thanksgiving, the Lions failed to solve the team’s issues with slow starts, allowing the Ravens to score the game’s first 20 points.
“Football is a funny thing,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “It’s tough to explain sometimes, but one of the things you know is what the issues are. The issues are you’re not playing well enough. We’re not playing well enough, and I got to do a better job coaching as well.”
Starting across midfield due to a late hit on the punt return, the Ravens (7-5) opened the scoring with a 38-yard Justin Tucker field goal in the opening quarter.
Following a missed field goal by Lions kicker Matt Prater, the Ravens began a second-quarter drive with a deep shot. Working out of the slot, wide receiver Mike Wallace raced past the deepest defender, safety Glover Quin, and caught a 66-yard bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco down to the 1-yard line.
“We had a situation where we should have had it covered and we just didn’t execute well,” Quin said.
The Ravens finished the job when Flacco found tight end Ben Watson on the next play.
On the ensuing possession, the Lions failed to mark blitzing safety Eric Weddle, who destroyed quarterback Matthew Stafford from the blindside and forced a fumble.
“The look I was getting I didn’t think that I could get what I got,” Stafford said. “But that’s on me, I got to get the ball out of my hand even if they’re showing something that was a little bit different.”
The Ravens recovered in Lions’ territory and drove 36 yards in six plays, finishing in the end zone once again, with a 3-yard pass from Flacco to fullback Patrick Ricard.
The Ravens tacked on three more points as time expired in the first half, extending their edge to 20-0 with a 46-yard boot by Tucker.
After the punchless start, the Lions came out of the locker room with new life to begin the third quarter. Stafford found Golden Tate to convert a third down, then connected with Marvin Jones for a 42-yard gain into the red zone. Running back Theo Riddick capped the series with a 4-yard touchdown run around the left side.
“The offensive line did a great job blocking that run, including receivers,” Riddick said. “They gave me a lane, and fortunately, turned into a score.”
After the teams traded punts, the Lions got within one score near the end of the third quarter. A late hit on Stafford, play-action completion to tight end Eric Ebron and a 24-yard pass to Tate got the offense back inside the 10. Rookie running back Tion Green, who was making his season debut, punched it in from six yards out, but a missed extra point only made it 20-13.
Green led the Lions with 51 yards on 11 carries.
The Ravens responded with a nine-play, 74-yard touchdown drive to push their lead back to 14 at 27-13.
The Lions had hit Flacco on the second-down play and the ball popped free, but it was ruled an incomplete pass because the quarterback’s arm was coming forward. In the post-play confusion, the Ravens caught the Lions with nine defenders on the field and converted the third-and-7 play to the Lions 10.
“Yeah, can’t tell you anything other than the fact that that’s wrong, should never happen, and that’s my fault,” Caldwell said, taking the blame for the blunder.
Two plays later, running back Alex Collins rushed across the goal line from seven yards out.
The Lions fought back with another long completion to Jones, this one for 46 yards. A picture-perfect pass from Stafford to rookie tight end Michael Roberts, between a trio of defenders, put the Lions at the 1 and Stafford found fullback Nick Bellore out of play-action to cut it to 27-20 with 10:20 remaining.
But again, the Ravens countered, this time a 51-yard Tucker field goal. The score was set up by a 44-yard kickoff return.
“When you watch the Detroit Lions and watch their games on TV and watch them as a whole, you know that they come out and perform well in the second half,” Flacco said. “And at some point, they’re going to make a push. So, I really feel good about how we responded in the second half.”
From there, things quickly unraveled for the Lions. Stafford was intercepted by Marlon Humphrey, snapping a franchise-record streak of 20 consecutive completions.
“We were in zone coverage,” Humphrey said. “The quarterback started scrambling out. I saw it coming a little deeper and I think Marvin kind of misjudged it a little and I was right there to make the play.”
To make matters worse, Stafford was injured on the play after his hand was stepped on by linebacker Terrell Suggs. Stafford didn’t return, but X-rays on his hand were negative.
Stafford finished 24-for-29 for 292 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Following the turnover, the Ravens needed four plays for Collins to work his way back into the end zone.
Taking over for Stafford, Jake Rudock was intercepted on his fifth throw by Weddle, who brought it back 45 yards for a touchdown with 2:36 remaining to finalize the scoring.
The 24 points in the fourth quarter tied the Ravens’ record for points in a quarter.