The only thing left for the Ravens is jockeying for a draft pick in the top 10.Before their embarrassing 38-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings yesterday, either someone forgot to tell the Ravens they were playing the NFC's best team, or maybe they just didn't care. On an evening when the Ravens had to be perfect, they were far from it, committing six turnovers for 26 Vikings points and a 35-14 Minnesota lead after three quarters.
Who fumbled? Corey Harris. Jim Harbaugh. Eric Green. Priest Holmes twice. Who didn't? Harbaugh was being nice when he said the Ravens (5-9) played like a high school team yesterday. The Gilman School would have beaten the Ravens.
"To win in this game, it's all about field position," said Ravens safety and kick returner Harris. "You can't let the opposition start inside your 40-yard line several times, not a team like the Vikings. They have way too many weapons."
The Ravens' ineptness marred a great day for their special teams as Harris returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and teammate Patrick Johnson returned one 97 yards for a score six minutes later. Both came in the first quarter as the Ravens tied an NFL record with six other teams for most kickoffs returned for touchdowns by a team in one game.
But the most glaring statistic that came out of the game was the time of possession. Minnesota (13-1) had the ball for 40 minutes, 34 seconds. The Ravens had it for 19: 26. The Vikings had receivers Cris Carter (11 receptions, 85 yards, one touchdown), Matthew Hatchette (six, 95), Randy Moss (six, 89, one) and Gary Anderson, who had field goals of 43, 31, 45, 24, 46 and 20 yards and extended his NFL record of converting on 34 straight attempts.
The Ravens had Floyd Turner (10 receptions, 147 yards, one touchdown), two great kickoff returns and uh, uh uh that was about it. The loss assures coach Ted Marchibroda of his third straight losing season and a pink slip almost immediately after the season.
The Ravens are jockeying for position in the top 10 with teams like Philadelphia, Washington, Indianapolis and Chicago -- next week's opponent -- to name a few.
When asked if the Ravens were ever going to turn the losing around, cornerback Rod Woodson said: "I hope so. First of all, I hope I'm here next year. We don't know about the coaching staff, we don't know about the free agents. But I know there is a lot of talent here to turn it around."
Most of the talent is on defense, and the unit gave another good effort, as the Ravens mixed coverages decently in the secondary and got pressure on quarterback Randall Cunningham, who completed 32 of 55 passes for 345 yards.
But Minnesota started drives after turnovers on the Ravens' 28-, 17-, 49-, 27- and 28-yard lines. It all started in the first quarter. With the Ravens leading 7-3 courtesy of Harris' kickoff return, Holmes fumbled at his 20 on the Ravens' first offensive play of the game. Anderson converted a 31-yard field goal.
Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and the Vikings' David Palmer followed by returning that ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score that cut the Ravens' lead to 14-12 with 3: 22 left in the first quarter.
"It was a little different in the beginning," Carter said. "They had a very good defense. We were just able to shut them down and capitalize on their mistakes."
It seemed like the game was going to be a shootout, but then the Ravens' offense died. Tight end Eric Green fumbled after a 12-yard reception to midfield, and Anderson eventually kicked a 45-yard field goal with 12: 55 left in the half to give Minnesota a 15-14 lead. Harris fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Vikings penalized the Ravens with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to Moss.
Harbaugh fumbled the snap from center four plays later and that led to another Anderson field goal, this one of 24 yards, with 5: 17 left in the half.
The Ravens continued their comedy of errors in the third quarter when Holmes lost a fumble on the team's first offensive possession and Harbaugh threw an interception into double coverage on the first play of their second.
Anderson kicked a 46-yard field goal and Cunningham passed 11 yards to Carter for a touchdown to put the Vikings ahead 35-14. Of the first 24 offensive plays of the game, Minnesota had 23. The Vikings had 33 of the first 37 and 91 of 133.
The Ravens' defense, which gave up 420 total yards, didn't have time to catch their collective breath. Veterans like Woodson and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa couldn't remember the last time they played so much in one half.
"The fastest way to lose in this league is to commit turnovers, and we were killing ourselves," said defensive end Michael McCrary. "We didn't give ourselves an opportunity to win. It seemed like every time we were jogging off the field, we were running back on. I know I was tired."
The Ravens showed signs of offensive life in the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late. Minnesota shifted into a prevent defense, and the Ravens managed 14 late points.
Next up for the Ravens are the Bears and then they end the season at home against the Detroit Lions. Then owner Art Modell is expected to meet with his front office and coaching staff to begin building for the future.
"This is a ballgame where we made too many mistakes," Marchibroda said. "You can't win in this league and make as many mistakes as we did. You can't give the ball up that much and, again, the other factor was that we couldn't stop them on third down.
"We hoped to play like we played the second half. Offensively, that's how we hoped we could move the football and we'd get an interception or two. We felt we'd get the big play on special teams. To a very large extent, the game turned out that way, but we made too many mistakes."