As Lamar Jackson threw into triple coverage, he expected the flag to be thrown because the Kansas City Chiefs defenders were all over his intended receiver, Isaiah Likely.
Instead, the ball landed in the hands of a Chiefs player, no flag was thrown and the Ravens lost 17-10.
The lack of a flag killed one of the Ravens’ chances to get the seven points they needed in Sunday’s AFC championship game. There were other potential missed missed calls, too, including one on the next Ravens drive: The play before the Ravens settled for a field goal, Likely was shoved into the ground again and Jackson threw an incompletion (on the broadcast, analysts said it was a penalty).
But ultimately the Ravens were hurt more Sunday by the penalties that were called against them — most of them deserved — than the ones that may have gone unnoticed.
“I think penalties affect every game, some more than others,” Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton said. “Seems like a lot didn’t go our way, but they’re human at the end of the day. I’m not going to blame the game, this and that, on the referees. We take care of what we need to, we win that game. But it does affect the game.”
While the Chiefs finished with three penalties for 30 yards, the Ravens had eight penalties for 95 yards.
One of the eight was probably intentional — linebacker Roquan Smith committed an unnecessary roughness penalty when the Chiefs had first-and-5 with 2:28 to go. It reset the downs to keep the Chiefs from kneeling it out following a 5-yard gain. The Chiefs closed the game out, anyway, but had to gain a first down to get to that point.
Others were avoidable. Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy was called for unnecessary roughness after stepping into Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who had been pushing and shoving with other members of the Ravens defense. That play came with less than two minutes left in the first half, with the Chiefs pinned at their own 11 after a first-down play that had gained only 1 yard.
Two plays later, defensive tackle Travis Jones swung his arm and caught Patrick Mahomes in the face on a second-and-5 incompletion, and the Chiefs advanced another 15 yards without having to do anything. They would kick a field goal to end the half.
In the last minute of the third quarter, Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers took a taunting call that reduced his thrilling 54-yard reception to a 39-yard gain (a few plays later, he fumbled at the goal line).
Finally, the Ravens were whistled for a having an extra player on the field as they frantically tried to stop the Chiefs in the fourth quarter.
“Really don’t have anything to say about those until I get a better look at them,” coach John Harbaugh said about the after-the-whistle penalties that appeared to be driven by players losing their cool.
There were also calls that, according to fans at M&T Bank Stadium, looked iffy. Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney was called for roughing the passer after hitting Mahomes, eliciting “bullshit” calls from the fans. Clowney hit Mahomes after the pass but had started to make his tackle while the ball was still in the quarterback’s hands.
In the end, the Ravens’ defense committed six of the eight penalties while the Chiefs’ defense was not called for any. The Ravens’ offense committed two, and the Chiefs’ offense was called for three.
“This is on the team,” nose tackle Michael Pierce said. “And the defense, we had way too many penalties, personal fouls, all that kind of stuff.”
And that is why this one hurts so much, Pierce said. The Ravens made too many mistakes on their own to even have a chance.