Ravens picked off, kicked on

CINCINNATI – It was an epic meltdown for Joe Cool, an eruption of interceptions that cost the Baltimore Ravens the game as they squandered a stingy defensive performance against the high-octane Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Flacco kept throwing off his back foot, regressing mechanically as he uncorked a career-high four interceptions

It was arguably the worst game of Flacco's young NFL career as his trademark poise under pressure evaporated during the Ravens' 15-10 defeat to the Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Baltimore (1-1) allowed no touchdowns for the second game in a row, surrendering five field goals to Mike Nugent. Flacco now has five interceptions in two games. His final one came on a pass over the middle intended for wide receiver Derrick Mason that safety Chinedum Ndukwe picked off on fourth down with two minutes remaining. "It's a tough one for me," said Flacco, who completed only 17 of 39 passes for 154 yards and a putrid 23.8 passer rating. "You don't like feeling responsible for why we didn't win the game. We just can't turn the ball over that much and expect to win a football game." The last interception sealed the Ravens' fate. This marks their sixth loss in the past eight games against Cincinnati, and their third in a row after being swept last season by the reigning AFC North champions. In two games, the Ravens' revamped offense has failed to deliver after acquiring wide receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and retaining Mason . Baltimore has scored just 20 points with only one two touchdowns. The Ravens have committed seven turnovers in eight quarters, including two fumbles and five interceptions. "We didn't do what we needed to do to get the job done," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. "The defense played an awesome game. All we needed to do is score a couple of touchdowns." The final interception was Flacco's second of the fourth quarter. And the Bengals (1-1) capitalized on that turnover as Nugent connected on his final kick from 25 yards out for the final margin. "Anytime you have four turnovers, you're not going to win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Maybe we could have pulled it out in the end, but we would have said the same thing: ‘We shouldn't have won the game.' We've got to get it straightened out." Further damage was done to the Ravens' cause when outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was hit with a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty with 4:34 remaining in the game. Suggs' penalty led to Nugent's 38-yard field goal that staked the Bengals to a 12-10 lead to retake the lead. Suggs hit Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer a moment after he released the ball, but referee Gene Steratore ruled that he drove his weight onto him intentionally. "It's a judgment call," Steratore said in a pool report. "In my opinion, I felt like he had driven himself into the ground with the quarterback." Harbaugh was irate about the penalty and immediately confronted an official. "It's hard for us to determine what roughing the passer is," Harbaugh said. "They are going to have to explain that to all of us this week, and maybe we can figure out." The Ravens fell behind 6-0 by halftime, just as they did last week in a 10-9 win over the New York Jets. By halftime, Flacco had completed just 5 of 17 passes for 23 yards and a 15.1 passer rating. He didn't complete a pass in the first quarter. The Ravens manufactured only 77 yards in the first half while the Bengals gained 143 yards of total offense. First, Nugent hit a 36-yard field goal to open the Bengals' scoring. Then, Flacco threw his first interception to cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones on the Ravens' ensuing possession. He was looking for Boldin, but his errant throw wound up in Jones' hands instead. That led directly to Nugent's 30-yard field goal.

The Ravens showed some signs of life in the third quarter, marching 80 yards in seven plays with Flacco lobbing a perfectly-thrown spiral to wide receiver Derrick Mason for a 31-yard touchdown.

Leading 7-6 after the quick-strike drive keyed by Flacco completing four of five passes, the Ravens never regained that crispness.

"We had one drive where we felt kind of good, but we never got rolling after that," tight end Todd Heap said.

Another call went against the Ravens in the third quarter when Palmer was tackled by middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who was flagged for tripping while being knocked down on a cut block. Instead of a sack, the Bengals got an automatic first down.

They turned that break into a 46-yard field goal to go back up, 9-7.

With Flacco struggling so obviously, running back Ray Rice probably should have been more heavily involved by offensive coordinator Cameron. Rice finished with 87 yards on 16 carries, averaging 5.4 yards per rush.

In their past 10 quarters, including the playoffs, the Ravens' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown.

Bengals wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens combined for just seven receptions, 101 yards and no touchdowns.

The Ravens' defense, especially in the red zone, was impressive despite enduring all of the sudden change of four turnovers.

"The predicaments we were put in were difficult and we held them to field goals," cornerback Chris Carr. "We did a good job."

Now, the Ravens head back to Baltimore to begin preparations for next weekend's home opener against the winless Cleveland Browns.








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