The Ravens' most memorable stumbles came in their two trips in the red zone.
Trailing 6-0 in the final minute of the first half, McNair connected with tight end Todd Heap for a 9-yard pass to move the Ravens to the Cincinnati 11-yard line. With no timeouts and 12 seconds remaining, McNair decided to spike the ball on third down - which meant settling for a field goal - instead of attempting a pass to the end zone.
"At that point, all you can do is an end-zone shot," Billick said. "To put a quarterback in that position - to force the ball, make the call at the line - the clock had gone down enough where it was prudent to go ahead and kill the clock and get the field-goal team out there."
Said McNair: "We wanted to have a little momentum going into halftime. You could look at it both ways. Could we have run a play? We just didn't want to take any chance of turning the ball over."
In a turn of events that typified the Ravens' troubling outing, kicker Matt Stover hit a 29-yard field goal amid whistles as Cincinnati had called a timeout to force the Ravens to try again. On the second attempt, Stover missed wide left after a low snap by Matt Katula.
"I didn't execute," Katula said. "I didn't give it a chance. I would love to make it perfect every time."
Stover, who had made 23 straight inside 40 yards, said: "I've got to make it."
The Ravens didn't return to the red zone until the fourth quarter, when they trailed 13-0. On the Ravens' first play inside the 20-yard line, center Mike Flynn was called for holding, moving them back 10 yards.
The drive ended when Cincinnati cornerback Tory James broke up a fourth-down pass to Mark Clayton on a slant at the Bengals' 8.
"We made too many penalties," McNair said of the Ravens, who were penalized nine times for 64 yards. "You can't win ballgames like that. We made too many mistakes to win this ballgame."
Heap added: "Give the Bengals some credit. A lot of things went their way tonight. We just never got in the groove."
The Ravens did manage to make it close at the end, when McNair heaved a 36-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason with 1:01 left in the game. Down 13-7, the Ravens had their onside kick recovered by Cincinnati, ending their five-game winning streak.
Because their next game isn't until Dec. 10 at Kansas City, the Ravens will use the time to regroup.
Not only did they lose return specialist B.J. Sams (broken leg) for the season, the Ravens also lost their grip on the No. 2 seed (and a first-round bye) to San Diego.
"We still control whether or not we win the division," Pryce said. "We don't have to wait for anybody to lose. The Bengals do have Indy and Denver back-to-back on the road. Yeah, good luck."