A kickoff return was the final straw that bent the Ravens' spine in a 17-10 defeat. Elusive return specialist Dante Hall scooted 97 yards in the fourth quarter for the Chiefs' game-winning score to become the first player in NFL history to return a kick for a touchdown in three consecutive games. Afterward, he slammed the football in celebration into a grandstand behind the end zone. His touchdown was set up by an offsides penalty by Ravens defensive end Adalius Thomas.
The Ravens collided with a wall of their own frustration in Sunday's loss at M&T Bank Stadium before 69,459 that was created as much by their miscues as the merits of the Chiefs and former Baltimore running back Priest Holmes. "This is a very disappointing loss," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Clearly, you can't make the mistakes that we made in critical times and expect to beat an elite team."
Besides the Chiefs capitalizing on the rookie mistakes of quarterback Kyle Boller for three interceptions, Baltimore (2-2) squandered a top-notch defensive effort against the highest-scoring offense in the league. The Ravens remain in a tie for first in the AFC North because the Steelers lost to the Titans. Plus, NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis' game-high 115 yards wasn't enough as the Ravens got away from their rushing game at crucial junctures. The football game ended seconds after Boller's errant pass to Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap was intercepted for the second time by cornerback Dexter McCleon.
It was a similar approach to the deep pattern that Boller and Heap executed successfully last week in a win over the San Diego Chargers. Heap was split out at wide receiver and Baltimore was essentially trying to take advantage of his athleticism and size advantage. The gambit didn't work, though. Boller completed 15-of-26 passes for 140 yards and no touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 33.0. "I will live and learn from this," Boller said. "I can't force it. I got one-on-one with Todd and lots of times he will come down with that. I was just trying to give him a chance."
The sequence also mirrored the way Boller threw an interception to safety Greg Wesley in the first quarter when he was trying to throw to Heap with McCleon covering. Asked if the Ravens were tipping their hand offensively, Billick took umbrage. "No, he's not telegraphing (expletive)," Billick said. "Sometimes, you all think you know the game. It's just frustrating at times. Kyle makes plays like that, as does Todd. "In particular, the last one in that situation we didn't have time. We had to get the ball down the field. We weren't going to smack it here and smack it there."
McCleon said he knew what Baltimore wanted to do based on his film study. It was just a matter of executing. "I guess they thought their chances of throwing to a 6-5 tight end and a 5-10 corner, their chances were better, but it worked against them," McCleon said. Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield said he wasn't impressed by the Ravens' receivers in general, saying they lacked speed. The Ravens also had two touchdowns negated by penalties on the same drive earlier in the game along with allowing Hall his additional chance to break the game open when Thomas jumped offsides on the previous kickoff. "Anytime you do something stupid like that … offsides is offsides. Illegal procedure is illegal procedure," Billick said. "So, there's no denying that."
Instead of having Kansas City (4-0) pinned deep after Will Demps' tackle, the Ravens allowed a touchdown as Hall burst between wide gaps in the coverage lanes and faked return specialist Wade Richey to the ground. Hall was untouched on a score that broke a 10-10 tie with 5:08 remaining following the Ravens contained him the majority of the contest. "I have to thank my man, Richey, for finally giving up a kick to work with," said Hall, who returned a punt 73 yards against the Houston Texans last week with a 100-yard kickoff return against the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago. "It was just awesome. My eyes got so big when I saw that hole."
Meanwhile, the Ravens' defense held their former running back, Holmes, to 90 yards on 22 attempts. Baltimore limited Kansas City to 10 points. The Chiefs average nearly 37 points a game. After Hall's touchdown, safety Ed Reed fumbled a punt to Kansas City with 2:21 remaining. Then, Boller threw his final interception with 29 seconds to go. "It's hard, very frustrating," Boller said. "There are a couple of balls I'd like back."
The Ravens tied the game 3-3 on a Matt Stover field goal in the third quarter that followed a 1-yard touchdown run by Lewis that was negated by tight end Terry Jones' holding call. "I need to see it on film" Jones said. "I don't think that it was, but you never know. The referee made a judgment call." Boller's fumble that was recovered by Heap for a score was erased by an illegal shift prior to the play. "I just told him you will make mistakes," Lewis said of his advice to Boller. "You can't let yourself get down. We need to keep rolling. He will get his stuff together."
Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times