INDIANAPOLIS - When the wheels came off the Ravens' offense yesterday, there were more growing pains for their rookie quarterback and a lot of vacant stares in the locker room.
On their worst day of the season, the Ravens committed five turnovers - including three more interceptions by quarterback Joe Flacco - and were never able to generate any meaningful offense in a 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
No running game against the NFL's worst rush defense.
No passing game until the game had long been decided.
No help for the suddenly vulnerable defense.
"I can't remember the last time we had five turnovers in a game," first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said, obviously referring to his system more than the Ravens. "You can't do that to the team, you can't do that to the defense. You don't even stand a chance."
It was a slippery slope for the Ravens after Flacco threw an interception on the third play of the game. By halftime, he had tossed another and fullback Le'Ron McClain lost a fumble. The Colts used those gifts to run up an insurmountable 24-0 lead.
Five games into a young season, the turnovers are mounting for a young offense. Flacco already has seven interceptions and the Ravens have lost five fumbles, which means they're averaging better than two turnovers a game.
On top of that, the running game the Ravens hoped would keep Peyton Manning off the field never materialized. Manning took his shots (he threw three touchdown passes) and the Colts had their way all day.
"It was a combination of bad throws and bad decisions," Flacco said. "Two of them [interceptions] were high and I missed the guys."
His first interception was a short pass that was tipped. Flacco threw a deep ball late to Mark Clayton on the second interception, when safety Antoine Bethea had enough time to make a play on the ball.
Toss in four sacks - three by left defensive end Robert Mathis - and it was a long day for the rookie. Flacco's best passing came in the fourth quarter after the game had been decided. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 148 of his season-high 241 yards.
"There were some plays early that I know he would want back," Cameron said. "He's learning every snap. There was some growth that took place. This season's not about Joe Flacco's growth, it's about us having an opportunity to win. Whether he's a rookie or not, he's out there to help us win the football game."
Against a Colts' defense that had been shredded for an average of 188 yards per game, the Ravens were barely able to mount a charge. They gained just 8 yards rushing in the first quarter and 6 in the second. By that time, running was a moot point.
It was the first time this season the Ravens were held under 100 yards rushing.
"Against these guys, you've got to be able to come out and mix it up," Cameron said. "You know you're not going to be able to just run it every down. We didn't execute very well early, but then we didn't execute the passing game as well early.
"Then you get behind and this played right into their hands."
McClain, the big fullback, was more of a blocker than rusher (two carries, minus two yards).
"We weren't finishing blocks on runs, we weren't finishing blocks on passes to give Joe one more step to get the ball out of his hands," McClain said. "Me included."