The Ravens' season, like their players, is spiraling out of control.

Falling faster than another penalty flag, the Ravens melted down in a 35-17 loss to the Detroit Lions yesterday, leaving them with the worst start in franchise history at 1-3 and a disturbing portrait of a team that lacks discipline.

In perhaps the most humiliating performance of the team's 10-year existence, the Ravens had 21 penalties (one shy of the NFL record), four turnovers and two players ejected.

The Ravens' fifth straight road loss delivered such forgettable images as Terrell Suggs arguing face-to-face with an official, Chris McAlister throwing the ball at a receiver after an interception and Maake Kemoeatu flashing an obscene gesture to the Ford Field crowd.

The Ravens are no longer the most talented team in the Brian Billick era, a claim made by the coach at the start of training camp. But they might be his most ill-tempered group, one that seems to be unraveling by the week.

"Clearly, what happened out there was giving in to the emotion of the situation," Billick said. "Passion, emotion and intensity are good, but you've always got to be under control. And we clearly didn't have that today."

Some of the Ravens players said they were not the only ones who had trouble separating their emotions, questioning how they were penalized 14 more times than the Lions. The Ravens finished with four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

"I think the refs just let their feelings get into it a lot," Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said coming off the field. "They crossed the line."

The one time the Ravens did have control of their emotions and the game was early in the third quarter.

Coming back from two touchdowns down, the Ravens closed within 14-10 and drove to Detroit's 31-yard line. But after two plays resulted in negative yards and an incompletion, Billick decided to punt rather than go for a 51-yard field goal.

Detroit (2-2) responded with an 18-play, 73-yard drive that ate up 9 1/2 minutes, courtesy of the Ravens. Four penalties gave critical first downs to the Lions, helped them crack a gritty goal-line stand by the Ravens and staked them to a 21-10 lead.

"I thought we were very focused in terms of what we addressed in the locker room," Billick said. "We came out and moved the ball very well. We kind of lost control of it at that point."

On that drive's 13th play - a second-and-goal from the Ravens' 6 - Suggs was flagged for roughing the passer after a Joey Harringon incompletion.

He quickly ran on top of referee Mike Carey to argue the call and was immediately ejected. It wasn't clear from television replays whether Suggs made any contact.

Suggs left the locker room before reporters entered after the game.

"He bumped me with malice in his heart and he was gone," Carey said. "He said a number of things to me."

Nevertheless, the Ravens had appeared to stop the Lions after three tries from the 1-yard line. But Kemoeatu was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving Detroit another first down at the goal line.

Carey said Kemoeatu made an obscene gesture to the crowd.

"I was celebrating the defense having a good stop," Kemoeatu said. "Obviously, I did something that the ref picked up. I didn't say anything to anybody. They said I was taunting the crowd. I don't know what to say on that one."