INDIANAPOLIS - The Ravens didn't let Peyton Manning beat them.
They did the work for him.
Indianapolis Colts last night was the result of critical third-quarter lapses on defense and special teams, not the hottest quarterback in football.
Despite holding Manning in check and short of the NFL record for touchdown passes, the Ravens failed to pull off the upset at the RCA Dome because of cornerback Chris McAlister's wrong turn on a touchdown pass and kicker Matt Stover's low field goal.
"You've got to play a complete game," coach Brian Billick said. "You can't turn over the ball and we turned it over in some unique ways. We didn't do enough of the whole package to get a win tonight."
The Ravens' third loss in four games dropped them to 8-6 and into a four-way tie for the final AFC playoff spot with the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars have the easiest remaining schedule of the four teams, with games against Houston (6-8) and Oakland (5-9), while the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh (13-1) and then host Miami (2-11).
"That's the thing you have to hold on to," Billick said. "There's 32 games left in the NFL and they're all going to have some impact. We have a tall task going to Pittsburgh, but we're going to have fun doing it."
The loss was even more frustrating for the Ravens because they hit their major objectives: running Jamal Lewis (130 yards rushing) and containing the NFL's highest-scoring offense. The Ravens' defense, which played with its dime package (two pass defenders instead of linebackers) most of the game, held the Colts to their lowest point total of the season and limited Manning to one passing touchdown.
Manning, who didn't throw for multiple touchdowns for the first time in 14 games this season, is one touchdown shy of Dan Marino's 20-year-old single-season mark of 48. He was 20-for-33 for 249 yards, doing just enough to lift the Colts (11-3) to their seventh straight victory.
"We weren't going to let Peyton Manning get the record against us," cornerback Gary Baxter said.
The solid defensive performance, which included no first downs on four of 11 drives, was tarnished on Indianapolis' first possession of the second half when the Colts led 6-3.
Mixing the run and pass on 10 plays, the Colts methodically worked down the field before fooling the Ravens badly. Off a play-action fake to Edgerrin James, Manning found Marvin Harrison wide-open in the end zone for a 29-yard score.
Left alone on Harrison, McAlister turned the wrong way, going to the sideline while Harrison ran to the inside and had no Raven within 10 yards of him. It was only the second passing touchdown of more than 20 yards given up by the Ravens this season.
"It was just one-on-one pretty much and Marvin got open," McAlister said.
When asked to explain the play further, McAlister turned his back.
Down 13-3 late in third quarter, the Ravens looked to chip into that lead with a 31-yard field-goal try. The kick by the usually automatic Stover, however, hit Ravens lineman Bennie Anderson in the helmet.
Stover's second miss of the season was returned 24 yards to the Ravens' 31-yard line. Five plays later, James ran basically untouched from 3 yards to extend Indianapolis' advantage to 20-3 with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
"To give a true evaluation, I'm not sure," Stover, who is 26-for-28 this season, said of possible penetration by the Colts' Larry Tripplett. "It looked like Bennie was back in the backfield a little bit and I kicked it a little low. It was a combination of both."
Colts 20, Ravens 10
Game 14: No record, but no win
Manning falls one short of TD mark; defeat hurts Ravens' playoff chances; Lapses spur 3rd loss in 4 games; J. Lewis rushes for 130; defense limits Colts to fewest points of season
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.