BALTIMORE—The Arizona Cardinals could have sulked over debatable calls or blamed an offense that went stone cold in the second half.
Instead, after falling to the Baltimore Ravens 30-27 on Sunday, the Cardinals acknowledged that they're simply going to have play better to win close games.
Arizona soared to a 24-3 lead late in the first half, but the Ravens staged the biggest comeback in their history and won on a 25-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff as time expired.
Outscored by three touchdowns in the second half, the Cardinals (1-6) lost their sixth straight. Four of those defeats have been by four points or fewer.
"It's hard right now," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Our guys are very disappointed after today's game because it was an opportunity to do something nobody thought we could do. But our guys believe in what we're doing. If you look at what we did the first half, it shows that if we do it the right way, we can be a good football team."
In the second half, the Cardinals made only six first downs and were penalized nine times for 87 yards.
The Ravens, on the other hand, played to form.
"Those guys came out in the second half with a different approach," said Patrick Peterson, who returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown but was flagged for pass interference prior to Ray Rice's second touchdown run.
"They just made more plays than we did in the second half," Peterson said. "We definitely thought there was a couple of bad calls in the second half, but that's how the game goes."
Using a fumble by Joe Flacco and Peterson's sensational punt return, Arizona scored three touchdowns during a five-minute span of the second quarter to take a 24-3 lead.
Baltimore (5-2) answered with a 24-point run and moved in front 27-24 when Rice scored his third touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
Arizona pulled even with a 45-yard field goal by Jay Feely with 8:55 left, but the Ravens won it with a 37-yard, beat-the-clock drive in the final minute.
After the Cardinals were forced to punt from deep in their own territory, Baltimore took over at the Arizona 44 with 52 seconds left. A 36-yard completion from Flacco to rookie Torrey Smith moved the ball to the 5, setting the stage for Cundiff's game-winner.
The Ravens' previous biggest comeback was from 19 points down against Tennessee in 2006.
"We woke up, plain and simple," said former Arizona star Anquan Boldin, who caught seven passes for 145 yards and was a key contributor in the rally.
Flacco went 31 for 51 for 336 yards, and Rice ran for 63 yards on 18 carries. In a 12-7 loss to Jacksonville on Monday night, the 5-foot-8 running back was limited to 28 yards on eight carries.
Kevin Kolb threw for 153 yards and a touchdown, and Peterson became the eighth player in Cardinals history to have at least two punt returns for touchdowns in a single season. The last one to do it was Vai Sikahema in 1986.
"Once I got past the first surge, I pretty much knew it was going to be me and the kicker, and I didn't know where he was," Peterson said. "Once I broke the last tackle, I just saw nothing but the end zone."
The Ravens began the second half with an 80-yard drive in which Flacco went 5 for 5, including a 37-yarder to Boldin that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Rice to make it 24-13.
"I felt like the way we came out at halftime is what turned it around," Baltimore linebacker Jameel McClain.
Late in the third quarter, Boldin caught passes 21, 23, 27 and 9 yards during an 88-yard march that ended with another 1-yard TD run by Rice.
The momentum turned even further in Baltimore's direction immediately after the ensuing kickoff.
On first down, Kolb was hit by Terrell Suggs while throwing a pass that was intercepted by McClain and taken 8 yards to the Arizona 22. Three plays later, Rice ran in from the 3.
Two holding penalties against the Ravens extended the Cardinals' bounce-back drive that ended with a field goal.
Mistakes by Baltimore also played a big part in Arizona's big second quarter.
With the game tied at 3, the Ravens' five-minute misadventure began when Flacco fumbled upon being sacked by O'Brien Schofield. Darnell Dockett recovered at the Baltimore 2, setting up a 1-yard scoring run by Beanie Wells.
Peterson then broke six tackles on his punt return. Thirteen seconds later, Richard Marshall picked off a pass that bounced off Smith's chest. That led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kolb to Early Doucet for a 24-3 lead with 3:46 remaining in the second quarter.
A field goal by Cundiff cut the gap to 18 points at halftime.
Asked to assess the mood at halftime, Wells said, "We just didn't want to let up. We wanted to keep on fighting. We wanted to go out there and prove that we're a good football team. We came up short, unfortunately."
Notes: The Cardinals placed TE Todd Heap (hamstring) on the inactive list. Heap played 10 seasons in Baltimore before signing with Arizona as a free agent this year. ... Ravens LB Ray Lewis missed a few plays in the first half with a right shoulder injury. ... Baltimore has won six straight at home. ... It was McClain's first career INT. ... The loss dropped Arizona into a last-place tie with St. Louis in the NFC West.