Ravens use losing formula in loss to Browns

CLEVELAND -- Between a sputtering, anemic offense and costly defensive miscues, the Baltimore Ravens' losing formula was fairly assured Sunday. <br><br> All-Pro runner Jamal Lewis was bottled up and not called upon as much as usual in the Ravens' 20-3 season-opening loss to the Cleveland Browns.<br><br> With All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden out with a knee injury, Lewis was limited to 57 yards on 20 carries after running roughshod over Cleveland for a total of 500 yards last year.

And quarterback Kyle Boller struggled with his accuracy, decision-making and ball security.

"When you don't score points, it's very frustrating as an offense," said Boller, who threw two interceptions, fumbled once and was sacked three times as he completed 22 of 38 passes for 191 yards, no touchdowns and a 49.2 passer rating. "Losing is miserable. We just shot ourselves in the foot."

The Ravens' Pro Bowl-rich secondary surrendered a deep touchdown in the third quarter to patient, albeit weak-armed former Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Plus, Boller's three second-half turnovers directly led to 10 points.

"We made critical errors at critical times," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We are better than that and we will be better than that."

The defending AFC North champions looked more like pretenders to the NFL throne than true Super Bowl contenders in a season debut won for the first time in the expansion Browns' six-year history. The Browns actually backed up a lot of pregame barking.

"Right now, I'm not happy at all," said tight end Todd Heap, who led Baltimore with nine receptions for 86 yards. "Overall, we didn't play good together. We have to go back and see what went wrong and fix it."

In major need of repair is the Ravens' passing game.

Boller overthrew open receivers and underthrew a deep pass to Kevin Johnson for his second interception.

"I thought Kyle played pretty well," Billick said. "I do not think that Kyle Boller was the reason we did not win."

It was a fairly bizarre game before 73,068 as Cleveland (1-0) played with a new poise and ability to capitalize, and Baltimore (0-1) found itself unable to move the football consistently or generate turnovers.

The Ravens threw the football a lot for a team that had the lowest-ranked passing game last season and the top-ranked rushing attack. There were 38 passes, and only 26 runs.

"We knew we had to be balanced, but still not abandon the run," Billick said. "Nor did we."

After trailing 3-0 for the first 39 minutes of the game, kicker Matt Stover tied the game with a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Three possessions later, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed bit on Garcia's pump fake and Quincy Morgan raced behind Reed for a 46-yard touchdown pass.

Cleveland 10, Baltimore 3. Essentially, that was the ballgame.

"I think it happened because of where I was going with many of my throws," said Garcia, who threw four interceptions last season against Baltimore. "They started to look at my eyes and react to the short throws, trying to make a play."

Reed didn't have much of an explanation for the touchdown pass. "I don't know what happened," said Reed, who compared the performance to the Ravens' 34-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, next week's opponent, to begin last season. "I have a bad memory. We're not perfect."We're going to make mistakes and they capitalized on those mistakes. No, I don't take it personal. I just don't like it."

During the preseason, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens caught an 81-yard touchdown.

"It goes beyond coincidence certainly," Billick said. "We can't just dismiss them and say that is just the breaks of the game. That is unacceptable."

Boller was intercepted on his next possession by Anthony Henry when he tried to force the ball down the sidelines to Johnson. Cleveland turned that into a 25-yard field goal by Phil Dawson set up by Andre Davis' 51-yard reception.

Then, Boller fumbled while looking downfield to throw at his own 14 when he was sacked for the third time by Kenard Lang, rushing against Ogden replacement Ethan Brooks. Three plays later, Garcia scrambled for a 3-yard touchdown for the final margin.

"We ain't no babies," offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. "We might have some babies at certain positions, but we have a lot of veteran guys who are going to step up and show people how to keep fighting. You have to keep fighting if you want to get better."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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