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Defense retreats to another tough loss.

Was this Brian Billick's revenge? Or Matt Stover's?

The Ravens were marvelous on offense again after a slow start, but the hand-picked replacement for Stover couldn't deliver the goods in a 33-31 loss to the Vikings today. The missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Steve Hauschka, however, merely took the harsh spotlight off another wretched performance by the Ravens' secondary.

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Two big penalties by cornerback Frank Walker -- only one was accepted, however -- and matador coverage by Fabian Washington and Dawan Landry left the Ravens with a three-game losing streak for the second straight season.

Joe Flacco was brilliant as he came through with a 21-point fourth quarter to bring the Ravens back from a 27-10 deficit. Three touchdown drives required only 11 total plays. Mark Clayton made a nice catch on a 32-yard touchdown, Derrick Mason scored on a 12-yarder behind a block from Demetrius Williams, and Ray Rice broke a 33-yard scoring run to cap the comeback and earn a 31-30 lead with 3:37 to play.

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The defense needed just one play to give up a 58-yard pass that put the Vikings in position to kick the winning field goal. On that play, Walker was beaten by Sidney Rice for a 58-yard gain to the Ravens' 18. Walker was flagged for pass interference (he yanked on Rice's jersey), but the Vikings obviously took the play.

Unable to get the ball in the end zone, the Vikings got the game-winning points on a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell.

The Ravens' defense was at its Jekyll-Hyde worst. Four times, the defense stopped red-zone drives to force Minnesota field goals. But whatever the defensive front took away, the secondary gave back.

Washington couldn't handle Rice (6 catches, 176 yards), and neither could Walker. Landry spent most of the game in run support, but on a goal-line play, he allowed Visanthe Shiancoe to slip into the middle of the end zone for an easy 1-yard touchdown pass. Walker also had a pass interference call against Bernard Berrian on that drive.

Big plays killed the Ravens again. Rice had catches of 63 and 58 yards, and Adrian Peterson had runs of 58 and 26 yards en route to a 143-yard rush day. It was the second straight week the Ravens allowed a 100-yard rusher. So much for that streak.

Flacco (385 passing yards, 2 touchdowns) outplayed Brett Favre (278, 3) and moved the Ravens into field goal range at the Minnesota 26 in the final seconds. After stopping the clock at :02 with a spike, it was up to Hauschka to make good on his promise of longer field goals. Instead, he hooked the 44-yard attempt wide left.

For years, the Ravens lost because they had no offense to back up the defense. Now they're losing because the defense can't defend the pass. A bye week will help, but don't be surprised if this loss costs someone a job.

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