No record, but no win

THE BALTIMORE SUN

INDIANAPOLIS - The Ravens didn't let Peyton Manning beat them.

They did the work for him.

The Ravens' 20-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last night was the result of critical third-quarter lapses on defense and special teams, not the hottest quarterback in football.

Despite holding Manning in check and from the NFL touchdown pass record and getting 130 rushing yards from Jamal Lewis, the Ravens failed to pull off the upset at the RCA Dome because cornerback Chris McAlister turned the wrong way on a touchdown pass and kicker Matt Stover inexplicably hit a field-goal attempt into the back of a teammate.

The Ravens' third loss in four games dropped them to 8-6 and into a four-way tie for the final AFC playoff spot with the Denver Broncos and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills. If the season were to end the day, the Jaguars would get the playoff spot.

Manning, who didn't throw for multiple touchdowns for the first time in 14 games this season, fell one touchdown shy of Dan Marino's 20-year-old single-season mark but the Colts (11-3) still managed to win their seventh straight game.

Indianapolis sealed the win when Cato June picked off Kyle Boller's pass and ran it 71 yards to the Ravens' 4, giving Manning one more chance to tie the record. Fans roared when Manning returned to the field, but booed when he took a knee.

"That's the right way to play," said Manning, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 249 yards. "If they were to call timeout right there, maybe it'd be a little bit different. They were kind of conceding that the game was over."

The stellar play of the Ravens' defense in the first half was erased on the first drive of the second.

Mixing the run and pass on nine plays, the Colts methodically worked down the field before fooling the Ravens badly. Off a play-action fake to running back Edgerrin James, Manning found wide-open receiver Marvin Harrison in the end zone for a 29-yard score.

Left alone on Harrison, McAlister turned the wrong way, going to the sideline while Harrison ran to the inside and had no Raven within 10 yards of him. That mistake led to the Ravens' second passing touchdown of the season over 20 yards and gave Manning his only touchdown pass of the game, leaving him one short of Marino's record of 48.

Down 13-3 late in third quarter, the Ravens looked to chip into that lead with a 31-yard field goal. The usually automatic Stover, however, kicked the ball off Ravens lineman Bennie Anderson.

Stover's second miss of the season was returned 24 yards to the Ravens' 31-yard line. Five plays later, James ran basically untouched from 5 yards to extend Indianapolis' advantage to 20-3 with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Ravens responded on the ensuing kickoff, which was brought back 64 yards by returner B.J. Sams. Trimming the Colts' lead to 20-10, the Ravens converted on fourth down twice, including a 13-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Kyle Boller to tight end Todd Heap.

On the night, Boller was 19-for-40 for 210 yards, including two interceptions.

The Colts' Reggie Wayne caught eight passes for 88 yards to top the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his four-year career. And Manning extended his own NFL record of consecutive 4,000-yard seasons to six.

The opening series was the worst of the first quarter for the Ravens' defense.

Manning's first two passes were completions of 23 and 22 yards to move the Colts to the Ravens' 9-yard line. The Ravens' pass defense quickly rebounded and broke up two passes to stop the 67-yard drive.

Mike Vanderjagt's 24-yard field goal put Indianapolis up, 3-0, and marked the first time in seven games that the Ravens' defense allowed a score on its first series.

Offensively, the Ravens' dedication to the run was rewarded at the end of the first quarter.

Lewis' 47-yard burst up the middle resembled one from last season, running through a tackle from end Dwight Freeney before getting caught from behind by linebackers David Thornton and Rob Morris.

After Lewis' second-longest run of the season, the drive dried up on three straight rushes. On a third-and-two, the Ravens fell 1 yard short when they surprisingly ran Lewis behind right guard Mike Flynn and tackle Ethan Brooks rather than their stronger left side.

Stover's 42-yard field goal (his 18th consecutive) tied the game at 3 nearly two minutes into the second quarter.

With the defense knocking Manning and his receivers out of sync, the Ravens looked as if they would take the lead going into halftime. Instead, they unraveled in the final two minutes of the second quarter and left trailing.

Kyle Boller's 33-yard strike to Travis Taylor down the middle of the field got the Ravens into field-goal range. But Freeney, who just outran All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden on the edge, sacked Boller 9 yards behind the line and forced the Ravens to punt.

In one of his most irate moments of the season, Ravens coach Brian Billick screamed as his offensive players came to the sideline.

After the Ravens' defense managed another three-and-out (the third one of the first half), their offense had another shot to redeem itself. Boller, though, was intercepted on an overthrown pass and Indianapolis safety Mike Doss returned it 32 yards to midfield with 13 seconds remaining in the first half.

Manning then hit tight end Marcus Pollard, who went free down the seam past dime back Chad Williams, for a 31-yard pass and the Colts called timeout with five seconds left.

Vanderjagt's 33-yarder gave Indianapolis a 6-3 lead, making it the fifth time this season the Ravens trailed at halftime.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Down the stretch

Here's a look at the remaining schedules for the five teams in the mix for the two AFC wild-card spots.

Team (W-L) ........... AFC ................... Week 16 ................. Week 17

N.Y. Jets (10-4) ....... 7-4 ................... N.E. (12-1) ......... at St. L. (6-8)

Ravens (8-6) ............ 5-5 ................. at Pit. (13-1) ......... Mia. (2-11)

Denver (8-6) ............ 5-5 ................ at Ten. (4-10) ........ Ind. (11-3)

Jacksonville (8-6) .... 5-5 ............... Hou. (6-8) ............. at Oak. (5-9)

Buffalo (8-6) ............ 5-6 ............... at S.F. (2-12) ......... Pit. (13-1)

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