BALTIMORE — With all the injuries they’ve sustained this season, the Baltimore Ravens must play nearly flawless football to have a chance against the better teams in the NFL.
They didn’t even come close to doing that Sunday. The Ravens gave away the football three times, committed several costly penalties and came up short on risky fake punt in a 34-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Baltimore outgained the Chiefs 366-277 and made more first downs, but Kansas City (9-5) won the turnover battle, and thus, won the game.
“Turnovers and penalties will get you every time,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said.
Tyvon Branch returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown and Marcus Peters scored on a 90-yard interception return to help the Chiefs secure their eighth straight victory.
Baltimore (4-10) lost its third straight and fell to 2-5 at home. It’s the first time in their 20-year history that the Ravens have lost five home games.
“For us, the story of the game, basically, is turnovers,” coach John Harbaugh said.
Starting his second straight game for Baltimore, Jimmy Clausen completed 26 of 45 passes for a career-high 281 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. His favorite target was Kamar Aiken, who caught eight passes for 128 yards — including a desperation 48-yarder at the end of the first half.
But Clausen’s first interception was the final blow to the Ravens’ upset bid. With Baltimore at the KC 16, Peters stepped in front of Daniel Brown, picked off the pass and took it down the left sideline for a 34-14 lead with 4:36 left.
“The biggest thing is taking care of the ball,” Clausen said. “Whether it’s the fumble, or the two interceptions that I had, you’re not going to win games turning the ball over.”
The three giveaways left Baltimore with a minus-15 differential for the season.
The Ravens wore pants that were described by the team as gold, but appeared to be the color of spicy mustard. Either way, the change did little to alter the course of this lost season for a Baltimore team that appeared in the playoffs in six of the past seven years.
With 18 players on injured reserve — including quarterback Joe Flacco, receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs — Baltimore’s goal is just to survive to the end.
“Keep fighting, just keep fighting,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “Just fight for the man next to you. We don’t want to see quitters. That’ll let us know who belongs on this team and who (doesn’t).”
With the victory, the Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to follow a five-game skid with eight successive wins in the same season. Kansas City also kept itself in the thick of the AFC playoff picture.
Alex Smith went 21 for 25 for 171 yards and a touchdown, and Charcandrick West ran for 76 yards and a score.
Although Kansas City let a 24-7 lead dwindle to 10 points by allowing a successful Hail Mary throw at the end of the first half, the outcome was never in doubt.
Credit the opportunistic defense for that.
“They’ve kind of got that mojo,” Smith said. “The defense, you see them kind of salivate, so to speak.”
On Kansas City’s opening series, Smith came up short on a third-down run, but was hit by Timmy Jernigan while out of bounds. That extended a drive that ended with a season-best, 38-yard touchdown run by West.
Baltimore pulled even with a 1-yard TD pass from Clausen to Juszczyk. On their next possession, the Ravens got to the KC 30 before Javorius Allen fumbled when hit by Derrick Johnson, and Branch went the distance for the go-ahead score.
“My hat’s off to our guys. They take advantage of opportunities,” coach Andy Reid said. “They’ve done that really all year.”
Late in the first quarter, Baltimore’s Sam Koch ran up the middle on a fake punt. He gained 7 yards but needed 9, which provided KC with the ball at the Baltimore 24. Three plays later, Jeremy Maclin caught a 13-yard touchdown pass.
“Anybody wants to criticize for going for it and being aggressive, have at it,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not apologizing.”
Cairo Santos kicked a 53-yard field goal to boost the margin to 17 points with 50 seconds left in the half.
That gave Baltimore enough time to pull off its biggest play of the day. On the final play of the quarter, Clausen launched an up-for-grabs spiral that Aiken plucked out of the air and took into the end zone.
NOTES: The Ravens lost CB Jimmy Smith to a thigh injury in the first quarter. … The Chiefs had no significant injuries to report.