BALTIMORE — When Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley darted up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left, it appeared the Ravens might be on the verge of the most improbable win in a season full of them.

Eschewing a game-tying extra point to likely force overtime, John Harbaugh kept the offense on the field for a two-point conversion attempt, but Huntley’s rollout pass intended for Mark Andrews fell incomplete and the Ravens lost, 31-30, to the Green Bay Packers Dec. 19.

It marked the third straight game in which the Ravens failed to convert a two-point attempt, including twice in the last minute of play when they could have likely extended the game to overtime.

The Ravens (8-6) won’t be interested in discussing moral victories, but it was an inspired effort by an undermanned team that was missing quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) — who missed a game because of injury for the first time in his career — and several other starters because of injuries, plus five players who were sidelined on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Making his second career start, Huntley had the Ravens’ offense operating as well as it has in some time, and his 8-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews for a 7-0 lead proved to be the Ravens’ first first-quarter touchdown in eight games.

Reigning league Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers (23-for-31, 268 yards, 3 TDs) led the Packers on four touchdown drives in a span of five possessions straddling halftime as the Packers (11-3) opened up a 28-17 lead, but Huntley answered with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs.

With the Ravens trailing 31-17, Huntley engineered a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive, and raced to the left corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score with 4:47 left.

The Ravens still needed a defensive stop, which had proved to be elusive against Rodgers, but they got it when Justin Madubuike buried Rodgers on a third-down sack.

The Ravens got the ball back near midfield with 2:24 remaining, and Huntley drove the Ravens 49 yards in seven plays. Huntley, who finished with a game-high 73 rushing yards on 13 carries, scrambled for 15 yards to begin that drive, and he later hit Andrews (10 catches, 136 yards) for 12 yards to the Packers’ 11.

Two plays later, Huntley found a seam up the middle and dove into the end zone to cut the Packers’ lead to 31-30 with 42 seconds left. But instead of sending out kicker Justin Tucker to tie the game and likely send it to overtime, Harbaugh kept the offense on the field.

Huntley rolled to his right and fired a pass to Andrews in the right corner of the end zone, but Darnell Savage appeared to tip the ball and it fell incomplete.

Here are five quick impressions of the game, the Ravens’ third straight loss, which have come by a combined total of four points:

1. Tyler Huntley showed why he is the perfect complement to Lamar Jackson.

If the Ravens wanted to work in a lab to conjure up an ideal backup quarterback to Lamar Jackson in their read-option, run-oriented, tight-end-centric offense, they would be hard-pressed to find a better prototype than Tyler Huntley.

Making his second career start, Huntley showed he has all the athleticism, passing ability and moxie to lead this team whenever called upon. He finished 28-for-40 for 215 yards, with two touchdowns, and he led all rushers with 73 yards on 13 carries.

Huntley had the Ravens’ offense operating crisply from the start. Showing the poise that Ravens coaches have liked in him all along, the undrafted, second-year quarterback led the Ravens on three straight sustained drives in the first half. The first came up empty, as Huntley was sacked on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, but the next two ended with touchdown passes to Mark Andrews, who made a highlight-reel, diving grab for the game’s first score.

Then in the fourth quarter, with his team needing two scores to draw even, Huntley led the Ravens on touchdown drives of 75 and 49 yards, running for the score each time after leaning heavily on Marquise Brown (10 catches, 43 yards) and Andrews to march down the field.

“You have to have two quarterbacks that can win for you,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Tyler is playing that kind of football. He played really well. … He took another step forward, just in terms of handling himself, operating on time and in rhythm.”

Harbaugh said that the Ravens “anticipate” that Jackson will be available for the huge AFC North showdown at Cincinnati next week, “but if he’s not able to be fully ready, then we’ll go with Tyler. So we’ll be ready to go either way.”

2. This patchwork defense deserves a lot of credit.

When reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers approached the line of scrimmage and made his pre-snap read, these are among the players he saw lining up for the Ravens: cornerback Kevon Seymour, who had played 25 defensive snaps all season; cornerback Robert Jackson, elevated from the practice squad for the game; safety Anthony Levine, who like Jackson had not played a defensive snap all season; veteran safety Tony Jefferson, who was signed to the team’s practice squad just days ago, and safety Geno Stone, who was making his first career start.

A secondary already decimated by injuries was further hurt this week when safety Chuck Clark and cornerback Chris Westry were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and then cornerback Jimmy Smith joined them just hours before the game. In addition, cornerback Tavon Young left the game with a possible concussion.

Among the cornerbacks, only Anthony Averett had seen significant playing time this season once Young went down.

It seemed an impossible ask for this ragtag collection of backups of backups to contain Rodgers, Davante Adams and the rest of the Packers’ passing attack, and indeed, Rodgers found his spots. He and Adams connected on a 3-yard touchdown with Adams matched up on Jackson, and Rodgers later threaded an 11-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who beat Seymour on a slant. Earlier, Seymour had been called for a questionable pass interference penalty that negated a third-down incompletion, and on the next play, Rodgers connected with Aaron Jones for a 9-yard touchdown that gave the Packers their first lead at 21-14.

Still, the Ravens came up with a late defensive stop, thanks in part to a big sack by Justin Madubuike, that gave them a chance to win.

This summer, Seymour, Jackson and Jefferson weren’t even on the Ravens’ radar. Now in the fourth quarter of a Week 15 game with huge playoff implications, all were on the field together for the Ravens. The fact that the Ravens nearly pulled this game off is a credit to the coaches and to these players for believing they could do it.

3. The Ravens’ failure to execute a two-point play might be their undoing.

For the third straight week, the Ravens aggressively went for a two-point conversion, and for the third straight week, they failed to execute the play. Both at Pittsburgh and in this game, that decision led directly to a one-point loss.

Last week at Cleveland, the Ravens opted for a two-point try earlier in the game when trailing by nine, and they ultimately lost 24-22.

Those three missed opportunities might prove to be the difference between making the playoffs and not.

Say this for Harbaugh, he has faith in his convictions. He trusts that his players can execute the play and they can gain the 2 yards needed for two points. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in Pittsburgh, it didn’t happen in Cleveland and it didn’t happen in this game.

The Ravens are 2-for-8 on two-point conversion attempts this year, and 6-for-15 since the start of the 2019 season.

Asked about the decision to go for two against the Packers, Harbaugh said the Ravens were “just going to try to get the win right there. I think our chances of winning right there were a little bit higher than the overtime.”

Some will scoff at the idea of taking the most accurate kicker in the NFL out of the game; Justin Tucker was kept on the sideline twice when he could have sent games to overtime. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Ravens would even see the ball in overtime.

It’s a 50-50 chance they win the overtime coin toss, and if they lose the toss, then their banged-up, shorthanded defense is put back on the field with a hold-or-else scenario. True, the Ravens could win the toss, march down the field and score a touchdown, as Huntley and the Ravens did on their final two drives.

Instead, Harbaugh saw that ball 6 feet from the goal line and, just as he did at Pittsburgh, he identified that as the surest path to victory.

“In both of those cases, that gave us the best chance to win,” he said. “Because we didn’t win doesn’t make it not true. It’s still true now, just as it was true then. It doesn’t always work out.”

Andrews, for one, said any second-guessing of the decision is “wrong.”

“That was the decision,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything else. … I told Coach that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think people that second-guess that are wrong. I think that was the right thing to do.”

“I loved the decision,” he added, “and I think we’re past that already. We’re going to keep being aggressive.”

4. Give Mark Andrews the team MVP award now.

With so many players injured, or on the reserve/COVID-19 list, where would this team be without their durable, star tight end who is seemingly involved in every big play on offense?

A week after tying his career high with 11 catches (115 yards) at Cleveland, Andrews tallied 10 catches for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Ravens against the Packers. He now has 1,062 yards and eight touchdowns this season, becoming the first Ravens tight end ever to top 1,000 yards in a season.

From the time that he and Lamar Jackson arrived as rookies together, they forged an instant connection, and Andrews has always been Jackson’s go-to security blanket. Huntley and Andrews have made that connection as well.

Huntley and Andrews connected for 43 yards on the third play of the game, and Andrews totaled 95 yards and two touchdowns by halftime as the Packers’ defense seemed to have no answer for him — until the final two-point conversion play.

On the Ravens’ final drive, Andrews caught back-to-back passes that moved the ball to the Packers’ 11-yard line with a minute to play, setting up Huntley’s second touchdown run.

This offense has been a constantly shifting series of moving parts this year, with changes along the line, total upheaval at running back and an occasional switch at quarterback. Through it all, Andrews has been available, consistent, and the heart of this offense.

5. The Ravens and the NFL haven’t escaped COVID yet.

The coronavirus has made clear that isn’t done with the NFL, not by a long shot. Yet with cases surging upwards around the nation, the league has changed its protocols to make it easier for vaccinated, asymptomatic players who test positive to play. Like Gus Edwards on third-and-1, the league is determined to plow ahead with this season no matter what.

Regardless, the Ravens find themselves on the cusp of a team outbreak, with positive cases trickling in throughout the past week. The latest was cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list hours before the Packers game.

He became the eighth Ravens player on the league’s COVID list, joining safety Chuck Clark, center Trystan Colon, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, cornerback Chris Westry, practice squad running back Nate McCrary and practice squad wide receivers Jaylon Moore and Binjimen Victor.

In addition, special teams coach T.J. Weist has tested positive and was not with the team for the Packers game.

The Ravens must be bracing for more positive tests in the days ahead, with a huge AFC North showdown at the Cincinnati Bengals looming Dec. 26.

The Bengals (8-6) have drawn even with the Ravens (8-6) and lead the division based on their head-to-head, 41-17 win at Baltimore in October. Cleveland (7-6), which had its game with Las Vegas postponed to Dec. 20 because of a COVID outbreak on the team, could draw even as well with a win. The Steelers (7-6-1) upset Tennessee to move within a half game of the division lead.

All eyes this week will be on quarterback Lamar Jackson to see if his ankle has sufficiently healed to play at Cincinnati this week, but at this point, the makeup of the rest of the Ravens’ roster is anyone’s guess.

The NFL is determined to play on, but it feels more and more like COVID might have a lot to say about how these final, frenetic weeks unfold.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

See all posts by Bo Smolka. Follow Bo Smolka on Twitter at @bsmolka