Ravens in turmoil after offense causes loss

MIAMI - Scant minutes before a rowdy locker room argument dotted by profanity that required players to step in to quell the situation, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick vowed that his football team wouldn't implode.

Not because of questions surrounding running back Jamal Lewis' overtime fumble that directly led to Olindo Mare's game-winning field goal that sealed the Ravens' 9-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Pro Player Stadium.

Not because of a penalty-plagued offense that has committed a total of 10 turnovers in two consecutive losses as Baltimore (5-5) now shares the AFC North lead with the Cincinnati Bengals after falling short in this defensive battle. And definitely not because of any potential internal strife dividing a team headlined by a dominant defense that's hampered by an offense that seems to be majoring in ineptitude of late. The Ravens' offense lost three turnovers and generated only 220 yards of total offense as their defensive teammates stymied Dolphins quarterback Brian Griese and contained powerful running back Ricky Williams.

"Don't go there," Billick warned reporters. "I know you are going to try to find anyone who will say something about his teammates. I understand that is part of your job, but we are not going to give into that."

Down the hallway, though, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Orlando Brown were overheard screaming curses at the top of their lungs, although not necessarily at each other. Brown declined to comment and Lewis downplayed the reaction to the loss.

The frustration boiled over after an afternoon where the Ravens lost for the fourth time without interruption in the regular-season series with Miami.

Ray Lewis and several other players characterized the outburst as just a demonstration of the Ravens' competitive nature. "I think that's a sign of being winners," said Lewis, sporting a few cuts and bruises on his face after Williams rushed for a game-high 105 yards on 36 carries. "If you walk in here with a nonchalant attitude, everyone in this locker room is going to have a problem with you." Despite limiting the Dolphins to 126 passing yards on 13-of-32 inaccuracy along with an interception from quarterback Brian Griese, the Ravens couldn't overcome the familiar self-inflicted wounds of red-zone struggles, turnovers and penalties.

"No, we're not torn apart," said Wright, who tossed two interceptions as he received his first start in two years as he replaced injured rookie Kyle Boller. "We're never going to be torn apart."

Lewis' fumble, the 20th of his career, the 13th he has lost and his fourth lost fumble this fall, was the most glaring and untimely error. Although Lewis said the coaching staff told him he dropped the football and he appeared to bobble the exchange from interim quarterback Anthony Wright, the NFL rushing leader said he wants to review his fumble on video before accepting blame.

Lewis accidentally kicked the football to diving Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas at the Baltimore 33-yard line.

Four plays later, Mare gained a touch of redemption for his missed 48-yard attempt that sailed wide and to the right in the final minutes of regulation. He booted home the deciding margin from 43 yards away.

"I really can't speak on that play," said Lewis, who fumbled twice in last week's loss to the St. Louis Rams. "My coach said I dropped the ball. I don't know. I'm really not going to speak on that play until I see the film.

"Last week, I can take responsibility for that. This time, I felt like I carried it pretty good until that last play. If I dropped it, I know I dropped it."

Lewis rushed for 88 yards, carrying the football 26 times.

Wright completed 14 of his 25 passes for 112 yards for a quarterback rating of 34.1.

His first interception was picked off by Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison after his pass sailed short of wide receiver Marcus Robinson in the second quarter. Robinson fell down and Madison scooted 36 yards to the Ravens' 23 to set up Mare's first field goal.

"I thought I had a step on him and the ball was underthrown," Robinson said. "I tripped and fell and those things can't happen. When you get an opportunity, you have to make a play.

"I don't know what happened. All of a sudden, I was running and I looked for the ball and I'm falling."

Then, the worst red-zone offense in the league failed again.

After Lamont Brightful burst through the Dolphins' kickoff team for a 73-yard return to the Miami 15, Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap's false start penalty began a drive that was capped by Matt Stover's 39-yard field goal. The Ravens' offense lost six yards on the four-play drive.

In the third quarter, 30 yards of penalties were assessed against the Ravens' defense, including a pass interference call on defensive back Gary Baxter and a roughing the passer infraction by outside linebacker Peter Boulware, led to Mare's 52-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead.

When the Ravens reached the Dolphins' 26 on a 3rd-and-2 with 9:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, receiver Travis Taylor was caught in a false start.

Two plays later, Stover kicked a 45-yard field goal.

Safety Ed Reed, who played his college ball at the University of Miami, then intercepted Griese. When Robinson attempted to force the football toward Heap later on in the quarter, he threw it behind him. Safety Sammy Knight broke in front for an interception that could have put the game away if Mare hadn't missed a 48-yard field goal attempt eight plays later.

"It can be fixed," Wright said. "It just takes dedication and accountability from the players. We all have to step up and accept the challenge. Right now, we need to refocus because we still have a lot to shoot for."

Now, Baltimore will try to regroup as it prepares for Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks.

"We lost and it gets old," Baxter said. "Sooner or later, something's got to give whether it's temper, attitude, a win. Man, I'm just going to be honest with you. It sucks. It hurts. All you can do is just build from it."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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