Six days after nearly knocking off the NFL's best team, the Ravens looked like the league's worst one.
Playing without both first-string cornerbacks and without any execution, the Ravens flopped to a 44-20 blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts at M&T Bank Stadium last night.
The Ravens' seventh straight loss was as painful as it was embarrassing - their offense, defense and special teams constantly tripped over themselves - and sealed the team's second losing season in three seasons.
The Ravens' offense turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions and one fumble by Kyle Boller. Their defense allowed the most points against it since November 1998. Only a last-minute touchdown by backup quarterback Troy Smith allowed the Ravens to avoid matching the largest margin of defeat in the Brian Billick era.
"We didn't compete," receiver Derrick Mason said. "In this league, in order to be considered one of the elite teams, you got to do it week in and week out. We showed a level of competitiveness last week. We didn't show it this week. I don't know why. As players, you got to be able to get up each and every game regardless of who you're playing and what you're playing for."
Mason added: "This one hurts. I think it comes to a point where you should get tired of walking into a locker room with the same look on your face and the same old feeling. As a competitor, you should want it to change."
If last week's three-point loss to the unbeaten New England Patriots was the high point of the season, last night's defeat was clearly the low one.
A national audience again witnessed the Ravens at their worst. Sloppy tackling and poor coverage on defense, two turnovers on offense and a blocked punt all led to a 30-0 hole just 18:03 into the game and prompted swarms of fans to head out of the stadium.
About one-third of the sellout crowd remained at halftime and those fans booed as the Ravens headed off the field.
"It was hugely disappointing to our fans, players and organization to not follow up with a better game than that," Billick said. "All we know to do is go back and work. I wish there was a better answer than that, but I don't have it."
Boller had his worst effort in seven starts this season. After looking poised last week, he was 19 of 25 for 132 yards, his fewest passing yards in a start since 2004.
"They were much more ready to play than us," Boller said. "We can't play the way we did and expect to be in a game, let alone win it."
The impending disaster built up throughout the night.
After the NFL's afternoon games, the last-place Ravens (4-9) were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the third time in four years.
On the game's opening drive, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning effortlessly drove down the field, picking on backup cornerback David Pittman on four of his first six passes. The last time was when Reggie Wayne beat Pittman down the right sideline and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in stride.
"[Playing without McAlister and Rolle] forced a lot of young guys to have to step up," linebacker Bart Scott said. "Peyton saw blood in the water and went after it."
On the Ravens' first drive, running back Willis McGahee fumbled on the team's fourth play, setting up Indianapolis at the Ravens' 12. Two plays later, Colts running back Joseph Addai scored a 1-yard touchdown to increase the margin to 14-0.
On the ninth play of the Ravens' second drive, Boller was intercepted when linebacker Gary Brackett undercut an inside route by Derrick Mason and returned the pick 49 yards to the Ravens' 19. One play later, Manning casually tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Addai, who was left uncovered on the left sideline.
Down 21-0, Ravens coach Brian Billick wasn't playfully blowing kisses to opposing players this time. He was a picture of disbelief as cameras caught him saying "Wow" to himself.
After the Ravens couldn't manage a first down on offense, punter Sam Koch had a punt blocked for the first time in his two-year career. It was knocked 30 yards through the end zone for a safety.
The Colts (11-2) extended their advantage to 30-0 on an 11-yard run by Addai before the Ravens ended their shutout with a 94-yard kickoff return by Yamon Figurs, the only bright spot in a woeful first half.
Asked about the difference in the Ravens' effort from last week to this one, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden pointed to turnovers, which the Colts converted into 21 points last night.
"We're not good enough offensively that we can do that," Ogden said. "We're not good enough to do that to our defense."
Holding a 44-7 lead, the Colts mercifully pulled Manning out of the game with 8:10 left in the third quarter. Manning finished 13 of 17 for 249 yards and four touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 157.5 (out of a possible 158.3).
The Ravens have sole possession of last place in the AFC North for the first time this season. This is the longest losing streak by a Baltimore NFL team since the Colts dropped 14 in a row in 1981.
Now, the Ravens will get to measure themselves against the NFL's worst team when they play the winless Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
"We ain't going to quit," Scott said. "You don't want to be the guy on Miami's record ... [where] the only team they beat was the Ravens."