Baltimore Ravens

Game 4: Mistakes pick off Ravens

If this was the Ravens' statement game, it was punctuated with a major question mark.

From the long touchdown pass that never was to the game-winning kickoff return that never should have been, the 17-10 loss to the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday left the Ravens scratching their heads and falling a few rungs below the upper echelon of the league.

This week's bye may not be enough time for the Ravens to dissect their mistakes, which included four turnovers, four untimely penalties and one eyebrow-raising coaching decision.

In essence, the game was decided by second chances in the fourth quarter - one that Chiefs kick returner Dante Hall took advantage of and one that Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller didn't.

When Hall broke a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown - which was a do-over after an offsides penalty, the Chiefs (4-0) showed the resiliency of a Super Bowl contender.

When Boller threw an interception near the Kansas City end zone in the final minute - which looked like a repeat throw from the first quarter, the Ravens (2-2) showed their inexperience with the game on the line, squandering an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

"This is a very disappointing loss," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Clearly, you cannot make the mistakes that we made in critical times and expect to beat an elite team."

Mistakes from Boller are expected, but ones from the Ravens' special teams ace are not.

After running back Jamal Lewis tied the game at 10 with an up-and-over 1-yard dive late in the fourth quarter, the Ravens carried that momentum into stopping Hall deep in his own territory on the kickoff. There was just one problem: Adalius Thomas, their leading tackler on special teams, was flagged for offsides.

Hall took the second kickoff and raced untouched up the left side to become the first player in NFL history to return a kick for a touchdown in three straight games. That record-setting dash put the Chiefs ahead 17-10 with 5:08 left in the game.

"It's frustrating to me because I expect more out of myself and my teammates expect more out of me," Thomas said. "I'm one of the leaders on special teams and in a crucial situation like that, you can't make that error. That really started the downward effect."

On the Ravens' final drive of the game, they moved to the Kansas City 44 after a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty and three short passes by Boller.

The Ravens went for the game-tying play with 36 seconds left, and Boller's throw down the left sideline went over the head of falling tight end Todd Heap and into the waiting arms of Dexter McCleon. Kansas City then ran out the clock, leaving the Ravens to think about what might have been.

"It's hard to take because we were right there," said Boller, who finished 15-for-26 for 140 yards and three interceptions. "I live for a two-minute drive like that in the end to be able to take the team down and win. This time, it didn't happen. Hopefully, next time the chips will fall our way."

The Ravens' misfortune can be traced back to the first quarter.

With fourth-and-one at the Chiefs' 8, the Ravens decided to run rather than kick a 35-yard field goal. Taking a pitch to the outside, Lewis slipped going one-on-one with McCleon and fell 2 yards short of the first down.

"In that situation, when we've got the No. 1 rushing attack against the No. 1 scoring team in the league, you have to take every opportunity you can," Billick said.

The red zone was just as treacherous on the Ravens' first drive of the second half.

Two touchdowns - a Lewis run and a Heap fumble recovery in the end zone - were negated by a holding penalty on tight end Terry Jones and an illegal shift (running back Chester Taylor moved forward when Heap was already in motion).

Instead of going ahead, the Ravens settled for a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 3.

"Whenever you're on the 1-yard line, you've got to put it in the end zone with 11 guys doing the right thing," Boller said. "There's nothing else to it."

The Chiefs responded by marching down the field and didn't blink like the Ravens at the goal line.

After acting like a blocker, Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez was wide open in the right side of the end zone and easily caught the 1-yard touchdown pass. Ravens safety Chad Williams played the run and let Gonzalez slip unmarked behind him, which staked the Chiefs to a 10-3 lead with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter.

"I had bad eyes," Williams said. "He did a good job of setting up the fake. The next time I have to have better eyes and keep my eyes on the tight end."

That error only set the stage for larger ones in the fourth quarter and took away from strong efforts from running back Jamal Lewis and the Ravens' defense.

Lewis gained 115 yards for his third straight 100-yard game. The 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter by the league's leading rusher tied the game at 10 and capped a nine-play, 44-yard drive that included all runs.

The Ravens' defense more than held its own in its reunion with running back Priest Holmes (90 yards rushing) and against a Chiefs team that had averaged an NFL-best 37 points a game. In the second half, the Ravens locked down on the Chiefs, holding them to 89 yards on 22 plays.

"Anytime you hold the supposed best team in football to 10 points and lose, it's hard," linebacker Ray Lewis said.

The Ravens couldn't overcome the one lapse on special teams and the three interceptions thrown by Boller. His picks came at the Kansas City 2-yard line, 7-yard line and in the end zone.

"We live and die with Kyle," Ray Lewis said. "Kyle is one heck of a competitor. Anytime Kyle steps on the field, we believe we can win."

The Ravens enter the bye week in a first-place tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then travel to the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals following their break. If they want to make a timely run on the road, they need to smooth out the bumps from yesterday.

"It's hard, very frustrating," Boller said. "There were a couple of balls I would like back. I'm going to make sure I don't force them in there next time. I've got to use this as a learning experience.

"We have to make sure we remember this feeling and make sure we don't do the same things."