By Jamison Hensley
November 19, 2007
With the scoreboard indicating that they had won, the Ravens ran off the field, celebrating an emotional come-from-behind victory.
About 20 minutes later, they lost the game.
Confused? So are the Ravens.
In one of the craziest endings in NFL history, the Ravens were utterly stunned yesterday when the referee's reversal of a missed field-goal attempt at the end of regulation led to a 33-30 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.
With the Ravens ahead 30-27, the Browns' Phil Dawson attempted a 51-yard field goal as the fourth quarter was expiring. The ball ricocheted off the left upright, dropped onto the curved part of the supporting post (about 4 feet beyond the crossbar) of the goal post and bounced back into the end zone.
One of the two officials under the goal post waved his arms, indicating the kick was no good. The coaches and players shook hands at midfield, and about half of the Ravens were already in the locker room when the improbable occurred.
After a lengthy discussion -- it took four minutes, 57 seconds -- referee Pete Morelli announced that the kick passed through the uprights and was good -- tying the game at 30 -- and called the players back onto the field.
In overtime, the Browns (6-4) won the toss and won the game on the first drive, when Dawson hit a far-less-controversial but equally gut-wrenching 33-yard field goal.
"You can imagine just how emotionally draining it can be to come in here and you start taking your pads off, thinking you won the game, to start celebrating with your buddies, and then you've got to run back out there," Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan said.
The Ravens' fourth straight loss -- which ties the franchise's longest losing streak -- dropped them to 4-6 and only added to the bitterness of a season that has turned unbelievably sour.
"I wouldn't begin to try to explain what happened at the end of the game," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I'll leave that to those who think they know it better."
The ending was so painful for the Ravens because they had done everything to lose in the first three quarters and everything to win in the fourth.
After turning over the ball three times in the first three quarters -- one interception was returned 100 yards for a touchdown -- quarterback Kyle Boller rebounded and went 11-for-18 for 160 yards in the fourth quarter as he rallied the Ravens from a 27-14 deficit.
Boller hit Devard Darling for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game at 27 and set up Matt Stover's 47-yard field goal that put the Ravens ahead 30-27 with 26 seconds left in regulation.
But after the Ravens defense had limited Cleveland to 32 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, a former sixth-round pick by the Ravens, completed two passes -- a 6-yarder to Joe Jurevicius and an 18-yarder to Braylon Edwards -- in 23 seconds, which led to one of the most surreal moments ever in the league.
In the midst of the chaotic time that followed Dawson's field goal -- several Browns were in the end zone pointing to the spot on the goal post where the football struck before bouncing back -- Morelli approached the two officials that were stationed underneath the goal post.
As the officials were discussing the kick, most of the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium began leaving. Some players were being interviewed on the field by reporters. About two dozen other Ravens made their way into the locker room. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter, was ripping tape off his ankles when told he might have to return.
"It's over," Lewis said at the time. "We won."
But it wasn't. All of the mistakes the Ravens had made -- committing four turnovers, continually kicking to standout Browns returner Joshua Cribbs and sloppy tackling on running back Jamal Lewis -- caught up to them in the end.
"It was just weird," receiver Derrick Mason said. "Just when you thought everything that had gone wrong you had overcome it, then there's another thing. They probably made the right call."
Now, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots looming, the Ravens have to wonder whether it's time to give up on this season and start thinking ahead to the next one.
Said Boller, who was 22-for-41 for 279 yards: "[This loss is] tough. It hurts. It's frustrating. It's just hard. This is definitely going to challenge a lot of people."
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