CLEVELAND (AP)Justin Tucker worked his way around Baltimore’s locker room, apologizing to some of his teammates for two mistakes.
It was that kind of day for the Ravens.
Even Mr. Automatic couldn’t be counted on.
The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Tucker missed a 48-yard field goal and had another attempt blocked. Baltimore’s offense also struggled in its second game without injured quarterback Lamar Jackson, losing 13-3 to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Ravens (9-5) were shut out on two trips inside Cleveland’s 20-yard line, and the failed visits inside the red zone were critical in a game where every point mattered.
The loss hurt Baltimore’s chances of winning the AFC North, but more importantly highlighted the team’s passing-game deficiencies along with an over reliance on Jackson, who is out with a sprained knee.
The Ravens didn’t score a touchdown in a regular-season game for the first time in four years, and coach John Harbaugh didn’t sugarcoat his disappointment in his team’s inability to locate the end zone or some costly turnovers.
Baltimore has two TDs in its past three games.
”We just have to start scoring touchdowns,” Harbaugh said. ”In terms of what really needs to change, we have to do things better. You can’t turn the ball over; you have to run routes the right way to get between defenders and free the ball; you can’t fumble the ball; you have to put the ball away when you’re getting up field.
”That’s winning football. Our guys know that.”
Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley, who only returned to practice Wednesday after sustaining a concussion last week, made his second straight start.
Not known for his passing skills, Huntley completed 17 of 30 passes for 138 yards in blustery conditions. However, he was unable to push the ball downfield and threw a critical interception in the third quarter at Cleveland’s 9.
Huntley locked in on receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Denzel Ward stepped in front to make the pick. The Browns capitalized with a 91-yard drive for the game’s only TD and a 13-3 lead.
”Very frustrating,” Huntley said. ”You have to score to win, so I’m very mad that we didn’t.”
Jackson could be back next week, but Harbaugh knows that doesn’t necessarily mean all of the Ravens’ problems will disappear.
”We have a heck of a quarterback sitting right here,” Harbaugh said, pointing toward Huntley. ”This guy knows what he’s doing. He plays with his heart. He’s very much capable of doing all the things that we need to do in the passing game.
”It’s not that. It’s everything else. We just have to improve on all of those things.”
Baltimore’s troubles started early.
The Ravens, who rolled up 198 yards rushing, drove inside Cleveland’s 10-yard line on their first possession. But on fourth-and-1 at the 7, Harbaugh didn’t give the ball to any of his talented running backs, and fullback Patrick Ricard was stuffed for no gain.
And then there was Tucker’s issues.
He made a 53-yard field goal, the 355th of his career, in the second quarter to move ahead of Matt Stover for the most in club history. But on the final play of the half, with a chance to tie it at 6, Tucker hooked a 48-yard try.
Then, early in the fourth, Tucker’s 48-yard attempt was blocked by Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott. It was the first time he missed two kicks in four years, and the 33-year-old felt the need after the game to hold himself accountable.
”As someone who feels like I am a leader in this locker room, I think that is the example that needs to be set,” he said. ”Any time any one of us feels like we fall short, we do acknowledge it.”
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey appreciated Tucker’s words, but didn’t think they were necessary.
”Everybody in the locker room was like, `Don’t ever say that again,”’ Humphrey said. ”He has won us too many games. He’s the best for a reason. There’s never a time when Justin Tucker loses us a game. He’s great.
”That is the last person I think anyone is worried about at all.”
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