Game 4: Penalty killer for Ravens

The Ravens' Terrell Suggs (center) was called for a questionable roughing penalty on Kerry Collins (5) during Tennessee's winning drive.
The Ravens' Terrell Suggs (center) was called for a questionable roughing penalty on Kerry Collins (5) during Tennessee's winning drive. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Kerry Collins exacted a small measure of revenge against the Ravens when he threw a game-winning, 11-yard touchdown pass to lead the Tennessee Titans to a 13-10 comeback victory.

But the Ravens - and a good amount of the sellout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium - think someone else beat them yesterday.


The turning point in a penalty-marred game came when referee Bill Carollo flagged Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs for a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty.

Eight plays later, Collins hit tight end Alge Crumpler for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:56 left in the game, a triumphant moment in Collins' first start against the Ravens since getting roughed up by them in the 2001 Super Bowl.


The Ravens (2-2), however, could only wonder whether he received some outside help.

"From the way the game was going, I think the referee just probably wanted to feel important," Suggs said after watching the teams combine for 21 penalties. "If I did anything illegal, I will say that I left my team vulnerable. But to be 100 yards away - I was nowhere near his head. We hit arms. I was trying to block the ball.

"If I'm guilty of anything, I'm guilty of playing physical football. They said I hit him in the head, but I was nowhere near his head. In my six years of being an NFL player, I've never hit a quarterback in the head."

It appeared from replays that Suggs hit Collins on the right shoulder, near the helmet.


But Carollo, who made the call on the field, had a different look from his viewpoint.

"He got him on the side of the helmet, the right side of the helmet," said Carollo, who has officiated two Super Bowls in his 19 years in the NFL.

After starting the game 11-for-22 for 101 yards, Collins went 6-for-10 for 62 yards on the decisive drive.

He was vague in his recollection of the Suggs hit.

"I really don't know where he hit me; I know I got hit," Collins said. "I think he hit me in the head, but it's hard to remember every play."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who could be fined like players who criticize the officiating, declined to elaborate on the penalty.

"I can't comment on those kinds of things," he said.

The play became more debatable because of an obscure "five-and-15" rule.

According to Carollo, the officials had whistled the play dead after flagging Tennessee offensive tackle Michael Roos for a false start.

But the Ravens and the Titans continued to play, and Suggs was called for a personal foul.

Under NFL rules, any 15-yard penalty (such as a personal foul) takes precedent and nullifies a 5-yard penalty (such as a false start).

"We're blowing the whistle, blowing the whistle," Carollo said. Suggs "may not have heard that - and we're going to give him that - but he still can't hit the quarterback on the helmet."

If the officials had run to the line of scrimmage and stopped the play before Suggs' penalty, the Titans would have been assessed a 5-yard penalty and would have faced third-and-15 at their 15-yard line.

Some Ravens were surprised by the officials' assertion that they tried to end the play.

"No, I did not hear a whistle on that play," Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.

Asked whether he saw the officials try to stop the play, Ngata said: "No. I didn't even know."

The Ravens' demise was more shocking because of their domination over the first three quarters.

Three times, the Titans started in Ravens territory. But the Ravens held Tennessee to a field goal.

In building a 10-3 lead, the Ravens didn't allow a drive longer than 37 yards.

But the Titans went 81 yards on 13 plays before getting a 26-yard field goal by Rob Bironas early in the fourth quarter.

Then, aided by two Ravens penalties - Suggs' controversial roughing the passer and having 12 men on the field - Tennessee drove 80 yards on 11 plays.

Using a three-step drop to avoid the Ravens' pressure, Collins completed passes of 9, 10, 4, 13, 15 and 11 yards on the critical series to keep Tennessee undefeated at 5-0.

It marked only the third touchdown surrendered by the Ravens' defense in four games this season.

"We just waited to the last second to have our worst drive of the day," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "It's a tough way to lose a game."

This isn't the Ravens' first conflict with officials.

During a 21-penalty game in Detroit three seasons ago, Suggs had a face-to-face argument with a referee after a roughing-the-passer penalty and was ejected.

Last season against the New England Patriots, linebacker Bart Scott was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing game officials and throwing an official's flag into the stands near the end of the Ravens' 27-24 loss.

Asked whether officials look at the Ravens closer than other teams, Suggs said: "Definitely. We're the bad boys of football. They're always going to look at us like that because of the physical style of football that we play. They're always going to have that close eye on us."

Now, after losing two games by a combined six points, the Ravens' defense must buckle down for a showdown with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

"We got 12 games left. This [loss to Tennessee] is not going to make or break us," Suggs said. "We can't hang on this. We're worried about the next game."

The penalty call
The Baltimore Sun


Jamison Hensley, the game's pool reporter, talked to referee Bill Carollo (right) after the game about Terrell Suggs' roughing-the-passer penalty during the Titans' game-winning drive. Here are Carollo's responses and Suggs' reaction:

The penalty:

"On the play with about five minutes left, we had a false start on the offensive tackle No.71 [Michael Roos]. It was right at the snap. We tried to shut it down and blow the whistle. But the players didn't hear the whistle and they continued to play. [Terrell Suggs] came in and hit the quarterback on the side of the helmet. If it had been anything other than a personal foul, we would have disregarded [it]. But any 15-yard penalty - coupled with a false start - it's called a 'five and 15,' which means the 5-yard penalty is ignored and the 15-yard penalty is enforced from the previous spot."

Roughing the passer interpretation:

"He got him on the side of the helmet, the right side of the helmet. We're blowing the whistle. ... He may not have heard that - and we're going to give him that - but he still can't hit the quarterback on the helmet."

Who threw the flag?

"That was the referee. That was myself."

Suggs' reaction:

"If anybody can go back and show me something I did illegal, then I would be happy to oblige and say I messed up. But when you are nowhere near his head - we hit arms, we hit arms - it just goes to show the referee has too much power in the game."