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Ravens regress in loss to Titans

NASHVILLE - Bearing virtually no resemblance to the hungry outfit that demolished the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, the Baltimore Ravens were victimized Sunday by a more aggressive football team that exploited every weakness. Lethargic and erratic on offense as quarterback Joe Flacco struggled, confused and torched on defense by the Tennessee Titans' suddenly potent passing game, the Ravens regressed markedly and were unable to avoid falling to a team they were expected to handle. The Ravens were unable to maintain their tradition of beating teams with losing records, absorbing a frustrating, discouraging 26-13 defeat at LP Field as wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a career-high nine passes for 135 yards and one touchdown.

"It was a humbling experience," said cornerback Cary Williams after the defense allowed Matt Hasselbeck to pass for 358 yards and a touchdown on 30 of 42 completions. "It was a humbling loss." The Ravens (1-1) dropped to 18-2 during the John Harbaugh era against teams with losing records. Days prior to kickoff, Harbaugh dismissed talk of a letdown as foolishness. However, the Titans had dropped nine of their previous 10 regular season games and didn't play well during a 16-14 loss to open the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "The team came ready to play and we didn't," said running back Ray Rice, who provided the Ravens' top offensive moment on a 31-yard screen play for their lone touchdown. "I'm not going to make any excuses. Our team is not going to make any excuses. "They were the better team. I'm not going to be negative in any way. If you look at what they did on offense and what they did on defense, they deserved to win."

The Ravens were unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities and committed three turnovers. During a listless first quarter, Flacco stumbled his way into a zero quarterback rating as he completed only 2 of his first 8 throws for 17 yards and one interception. It was one of the worst games of his career as Flacco finished with 15 of 32 completions for 197 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 51.2 passer rating.

It was a major contrast to how Flacco delivered three touchdown passes against the Steelers. "I think everyone didn't play well, and that's the bottom line," Harbaugh said when asked specifically about Flacco. "We win as a team, and we lose as a team. I'm not going to sit here and nit-pick one guy or another guy." Although the pass protection was suspect as Flacco was sacked three times, he was also guilty of staring down reads and holding onto the football too long.

"Obviously, we didn't do too many things that helped us out there," Flacco said. "We didn't really keep ourselves on the field fort a very long time. We were never really able to get to them, wear them out a little bit and break them. "We hurt ourselves with a couple penalties. We turned the ball over, all things that aren't really a good recipe for winning football games." Flacco got picked off in the first quarter by cornerback Alterraun Verner when he locked onto wide receiver Lee Evans.

And Flacco's fourth-quarter interception to cornerback Jason McCourty happened when a throw got deflected by cornerback Cortland Finnegan that was intended for tight end Ed Dickson. "I got a little greedy trying to make a play and let Ed make a play," Flacco said. "It just so happened that Finnegan got his hands on the ball and tipped it up and the guy was sitting back there for it. Probably getting a little too greedy, and it wasn't a very good one on my part." The Ravens managed only 15 first downs to the Titans' 21 first downs as they were outgained 432 yards to 229 yards in total offense. Baltimore converted just 3 of 10 third-down opportunities, rushing for just 45 yards to average 2.6 per carry after gain 170 yards on the ground against the Steelers.

They intercepted Hasselbeck once as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs grabbed a Hasselbeck pass deflected by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but that was the lone turnover they forced after setting a franchise record with seven against the Steelers. And Hasselbeck wasn't sacked. "They beat us by winning in every way you can beat a football team," Harbaugh said. "I thought they had something to prove and they proved it. We didn't play as well. I don't have any theory right now. Everybody is going to have a theory and none of them are going to be right." There are some tough facts to face after this setback, though.

The Ravens' blockers struggled to protect Flacco or create holes for Rice to run through with the exception of a well-executed screen for a score where he broke through several tackles, including middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, and center Matt Birk and offensive guard Marshall Yanda ran interference for him.

The Ravens generated only a combined total of five yards on their first two possessions and didn't earn a first down until Flacco found Lee Evans for a 13-yard completion with 4:40 remaining in the first quarter. The Ravens did contain Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson, limiting him to just 53 yards on 24 carries for an average of 2.2 per carry with a long run of seven yards. They were unable to solve Britt or his wide receiver teammate Nate Washington, who caught seven passes for 99 yards.

"We are a great team," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We ain't even worried about it. We knew we weren't going to go undefeated. That is the only thing that this game really confirmed. This team never had illusions of grandeur." When backup running back Javon Ringer dashed untouched into the end zone on a 4th-and-1 in the third quarter as strong safety Tom Zbikowski got tied up with a blocker, the Titans built a 17-10 lead that they never relinquished. Breaking a scoreless deadlock, the Titans launched their scoring in the second quarter on a 25-yard Rob Bironas field goal in the second quarter after he missed a 34-yard chip shot to start the quarter.

The field goal was set up by a fumble by backup running back Ricky Williams. The Ravens tied the score heading into halftime on a Billy Cundiff 41-yard field goal with no time remaining on the clock after a 77-yard kickoff return from wide receiver David Reed. However, that drive should have ended with a touchdown if not for Flacco being sacked by Dave Ball on third down.

In the fourth quarter, the Ravens had to settle for a 29-yard Cundiff field goal after a lengthy 11-play drive that got them down to the six-yard line before the march fizzled. "We didn't make enough big plays down the field in the passing game," Harbaugh said. "We have to do that. We have to make plays on third downs. We have to make plays downfield to open up the running game as well."

Now, the Ravens have to regroup as they travel to play the St. Louis Rams next Sunday. "We always bounce back," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "None of us came out and said, ‘Let's go 16-0.' As a team, we have been battle-tested so many times. The 24-hour rule is win, lose or draw you come back to work and it's over. The next week is upon us."

Notebook: Britt, Hasselbeck torch Ravens' secondary

NASHVILLE - It was an old-fashioned game of catch for Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Kenny Britt, and it was rarely interrupted by the Baltimore Ravens' secondary. Hasselbeck picked apart the Ravens' defense during a 26-13 victory Sunday at LP Field, connecting with Britt for a career-high nine receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown. Britt's superior size and speed confounded the Baltimore defensive backs.

"He's tough for the reasons everybody knows he's tough," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "He's a big guy and he's strong and he's fast. I don't know what else you could ask for a receiver. He has all the tools and he showcased them." Already this season, Hasselbeck and Britt have combined for 14 receptions, 271 yards and three touchdowns even while they just begin to develop their chemistry.

While wide receiver Nate Washington caught seven passes for 99 yards, it was Britt who made the difference for the Titans.

His consecutive catches set up the Titans' first touchdown, a four-yard score lobbed to him. Britt also caught two passes for 27 yards on the Titans' second scoring drive, catching passes on former NFL Defensive Player of the Year free safety Ed Reed.

And it was Britt who beat the Ravens for a 28-yard reception on third down to lead to the Titans' final score of the fourth quarter. "They were on good timing, Hasselbeck and Kenny Britt were on the same page," said cornerback Lardarius Webb, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles. "They got the ball out real quick. There are a lot of guys like Britt, this is the NFL. He had a great game.

"He's not God, but he had a great game. We learn from this. We learn how to go against this great wide receiver. We're going to look at film and learn exactly what we did wrong and what we could have done better."

Hasselbeck completed 30 of 42 passes for 358 yards, one touchdown and one interception from outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

"We didn't get it done on the back end, and Hasselbeck is a good player," Foxworth said. "If you give him confidence early, it's hard to rein him back in. He was making the right decisions. The one interception we got was a tipped ball. There weren't too many close ones."

The Titans averaged 8.5 yards per passing attempt. "I don't think we made plays," Foxworth said. "We had our opportunities, but Hasselbeck is a smart guy and he's not going to throw into coverage too often. Our job is to be one step ahead of him and be aggressive and we weren't."

STOPPING CJ: Shutting down Titans star running back Chris Johnson is something of a hollow accomplishment for the Ravens' defense considering the outcome of the game.

The Ravens bottled up the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year and 2,000-yard rusher, limiting him to only 53 yards on 24 carries. "Anytime you have a homerun hitter like that, that is the focus," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "The focus was Chris Johnson and we got after him. That is a credit to everything we focused on. They went away from that. They saw that we were really getting after him and they started throwing the ball."

Johnson averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and had a long run of seven yards, catching just three passes for 12 yards.

"You let him get an edge on you, you let him get the corner on you and he is out of the gate," Lewis said. "Integrity-wise, we attacked the gaps very well and everybody won their one-on-one battles in the run game."

GRUBBS SIDELINED: Starting left offensive guard Ben Grubbs was sidelined for the first time in his career due to a right toe injury. Grubbs had previously appeared in 65 consecutive games and was replaced in the lineup by former New England Patriots lineman Mark LeVoir. "I wanted to be smart," Grubbs said. "The last thing I wanted to do was go to out there and hurt my team. If I made the decision to play, I wanted to be as close to 100 percent as possible and I just felt like I wasn't there."

Grubbs was noncommittal on whether he'll play next Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. "Next week is a long ways away," Grubbs said. "We'll take it day by day. I'll continue to go hard in the training room. We'll see how it feels Monday. Hopefully, I'll be running around." LeVoir got the starting nod over five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode, who's listed on the depth chart as the backup to center Matt Birk and at both guard spots.

"Mark's more of a guard, Andre is more of a center," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Mark's more of a tackle-guard. Andre has been playing center for most of his career. I think Mark is further along at guard." LeVoir had a fairly uneventful game, allowing little penetration up the middle.

"Obviously, not as good as we would like since we didn't win," LeVoir said. "We've got to learn from this and move on. We played hard, but we just didn't play well enough."

ROUGH GAME: It wasn't a banner game for the offensive line as far as pass protection as quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked three times. Flacco was only sacked once against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season-opener. "We've got to get better," said right offensive tackle Michael Oher, who also committed a false-start penalty. "I've got to watch the film and see what happened."

Titans backup defensive end Dave Ball had four tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits. And former first-round defensive end Derrick Morgan also had a sack as well as defensive tackle Karl Klug.

"I didn't block Ball," Oher said. "I don't think I went up against him. They're a good defense. They played tough, they played hard." Left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said the Ravens were well-prepared for the Titans' aggressive 4-3 scheme.

"We watched film, we studied," he said. "They just made more plays than we did. I feel like we had the same kind of intensity as we did last week. The results were different. We have to take this as a learning experience. We didn't do a great job."

QUICK HITS: Besides Grubbs, the Ravens deactivated rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss, rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith (left high-ankle sprain), cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring), cornerback Chykie Brown, nose guard Brandon McKinnie and outside linebacker Sergio Kindle. Cornerback Danny Gorrer was promoted from the practice squad Saturday when the Ravens cut linebacker Jason Phillips, and Gorrer was active ahead of Brown. ... The Titans scratched quarterback Rusty Smith, wide receiver Damian Williams, safety Chris Hope (dislocated shoulder), former Ravens cornerback Chris Hawkins, center Kevin Matthews, offensive tackle Byron Stingily and defensive end William Hayes.

Kindle declined to comment when asked if he was served papers for a $130,000 lawsuit filed by a Nashville lawyer on behalf of a Minnesota bank. .. Gurode said he'll remain patient and wait for an opportunity. "I just stayed positive," Gurode said. "I knew that at any second something could happen. I was one play away from playing."

Ravens: David Reed hurts shoulder, Terrence Cody suffers concussion in loss

NASHVILLE - It was a frustrating, painful game for the Baltimore Ravens beyond their 26-13 loss Sunday to the Tennessee Titans.

Wide receiver and kick returner David Reed said he injured the AC joint in his left shoulder and his arm is in a sling. He'll undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine the extent of the damage to an injury characterized as a shoulder strain by a team official. "It's an AC joint, I never even got injured before I got to the NFL, and now I've got all these injuries," said Reed, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. "It's not me. It's very, very unfortunate." Reed led the NFL with a 29.3 kickoff return average as a rookie and set a franchise record with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in an overtime win over the Houston Texans. "I will do whatever I can to get back," Reed said. "I'm praying I'll be back soon." Nose guard Terrence Cody suffered a concussion and didn't return.

After the game, wide receiver Lee Evans was soaking his injured left ankle and foot in a bucket of ice. The injury has plagued him since the preseason. "I can't say I'm 100 percent," Evans said. "I'm giving it what I got." Fullback Vonta Leach was limping in the first half due to a foot issue, but said it isn't serious. "I feel fine," he said. "I'm good." Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcountytimes.com.


QUARTERBACK: F It was an erratic, ineffective outing for quarterback Joe Flacco one week removed from one of the best performances of his career. Flacco was intercepted twice and had a 51.2 passer rating, completing just 15 of 32 throws for 197 yards and one touchdown. In one of his worst games in recent memory, Flacco held onto the football far too long in the pocket and stared down reads.

RUNNING BACK: C Former Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice scored the Ravens' lone touchdown on a 31-yard screen play and caught five passes for 53 yards, but only averaged 3.3 yards per carry and was generally bottled up by linebackers. Fullback Vonta Leach didn't have one of his top games as a lead blocker.

RECEIVER: D They gained separation inconsistently, and wide receivers combined for only five receptions for 99 yards despite being targeted 12 times. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta made a couple nice plays, but didn't have the impact they launched the season with against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

OFFENSIVE LINE: D They allowed Joe Flacco to be sacked three times as offensive tackle Michael Oher struggled in pass protection and had a pair of false-start penalties, a familiar trend for him. The Ravens made backup Titans defensive end Dave Ball look like he was All-Pro pass rusher Jared Allen for one day as he racked up four tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits.

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-plus They did a solid job of stonewalling Titans star running back Chris Johnson, limiting the former 2,000-yard rusher to just 53 yards on 24 carries with a long run of seven yards. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata led the charge with six tackles and a pass deflection. There wasn't nearly enough pass rush, though, a shortcoming that cost the Ravens dearly.

LINEBACKER: C-plus Middle linebacker Ray Lewis rebounded from a slow start to finish with eight tackles, one for a loss and a pass deflection. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs generated the only pass rush on Matt Hasselbeck, harassing him for a quarterback hit, an interception off a Haloti Ngata deflection and two pass deflections. Jameel McClain missed open-field tackles, raising the question of whether the Ravens should play Dannell Ellerbe more at inside linebacker.

SECONDARY: F They were shredded by Matt Hasselbeck, allowing him to connect on 30 of 42 passes for 358 yards and one touchdown for a sterling 95.1 passer rating. He peppered cornerbacks Cary Williams, Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth with throws to star wide receiver Kenny Britt, completing nine of 13 throws to him for a game-high 135 yards and his lone score. He also hooked up with Nate Washington for another seven receptions for 99 yards, including a 42-yard bomb.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B This was the major bright spot as David Reed turned in an electrifying 77-yard kickoff return, averaging 41.7 yards on three returns. Punter Sam Koch averaged 45 yards per boot. And kicker Billy Cundiff knocked in field goals from 41 and 29 yards. The Ravens contained dangerous return man Marc Mariani, limiting him to 17 yards on three punt returns. Cundiff had three touchbacks.

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