The Ravens' defense couldn't cement what might have been a landmark win for a struggling team.
A unit renowned for its unwillingness to surrender points and knack for compelling offenses to make mistakes found itself on the receiving end as the defense wilted, helping the New England Patriots stay undefeated with a 27-24 victory at M&T; Bank Stadium last night.
"It's frustrating," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "That's part of the game, but we've just got to move on to the Colts."
The Patriots' game-winning drive might haunt the Ravens for a while. Twice, the defense appeared to have stopped New England on fourth-and-one in Ravens territory, giving possession to the offense with less than two minutes left in the game.
But the Ravens called a timeout before the defense pushed back quarterback Tom Brady on a sneak, and Heath Evans' 1-yard loss was negated by a Patriots false-start penalty.
"We didn't feel like we were in the right configuration," coach Brian Billick said of the timeout call. "Kind of knew what they were going to do and felt like we needed a better call, I guess."
Pressed on who called the timeout, Billick said: "We called the timeout. If he had gotten the first, you would've been screaming, 'Well, why didn't you call a timeout?' So let's make sure we don't have revisionist history here."
The defense appeared to stop New England on another fourth-down situation, but safety Jamaine Winborne was flagged for defensive holding in the end zone, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs.
A play later, Brady found wide receiver Jabar Gaffney in the right back corner of the end zone for the game-winning 8-yard touchdown.
Defensive penalties hindered the Ravens. The defense committed three for 22 yards on the Patriots' opening possession (culminating in a 21-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski) and two more for 8 yards and two first downs on Evans' 1-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter.
"We lost, but everyone thought they were going to hang 50 [points] on us," defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said. "They're a damn good team, and they made a couple more plays than we did. It's just tough."
Cornerback Samari Rolle came to Bart Scott's defense.
Rolle said the emotional linebacker, who was whistled twice for unsportsmanlike conduct after Gaffney's touchdown, was reacting to head linesman Phil McKinnely whom Rolle accused of calling the cornerback "boy."
"He did it five times," Rolle said of the official. "You don't call a grown man with a wife and three kids 'boy.' ... If he put on a helmet, he wouldn't say that to me."
Scott declined to talk to the media to confirm Rolle's account. Rolle said he planned to discuss the matter with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to see if the organization could pursue action through the league.
McGahee's effort lost
Willis McGahee's best performance of the season was all for naught.
The running back compiled 159 total yards from scrimmage - including a 30-carry, 138-yard, one-touchdown effort on the ground - but the effort was overshadowed by the loss to the Patriots.
"The loss takes away everything," said McGahee, who has now rushed for 1,048 yards. "We played our hearts out tonight. We had some bogus calls, but you know, it is what it is."
New England had not been a very accommodating opponent in the past for McGahee.
In five career games against the Patriots, McGahee had gained 305 yards on 93 carries - an average of just 61 yards a game and 3.3 yards per carry. He had never scored a rushing or receiving touchdown.
His most productive showing occurred Oct. 30, 2005, when he carried the football 31 times for 136 yards. Since then, however, McGahee had not gained more than 70 yards on the ground in a single game against New England.
"Huge, huge," Billick said. "I thought he ran the ball very well against an outstanding football team. Very pleased with the way he ran the ball."
Sun reporter Kevin Van Valkenburg contributed to this article.