Between normally reliable veteran kicker Matt Stover flubbing three field goal
tries for nine lost points, quarterback Kyle Boller being knocked out of the
game with a hyperextended right toe and several penalties that negated big
plays, the ugly outcome was rather predictable.
The Ravens' 24-7 defeat to the Colts on Sunday night before a record crowd of 70,501 at M&T Bank Stadium represents a squandered chance to win a football game and casts more doubt about their ability to regain their status as a playoff contender in the AFC.
"It's just about as bad an opener as you can have," Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said.
Working with rookie long snapper Matt Katula for the first time, the snaps didn't appear to be the issue for Stover who pushed two attempts wide left and another wide right. He missed attempts from 38, 47 and 45 yards, missing as many field goals as he did all of last season when he went 29-for-32.
"I've got to take that on the chin and come back against Tennessee," Stover said. "I've got to put this game in the books. I'm a fighter, always will be. I apologize to the city of Baltimore for the performance."
"Sometimes a kicker just doesn't have it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Stover said the snap and the holds of punter Dave Zastudil weren't the issue.
"They did a great job," Stover said. "It had nothing to do with the snap or the hold. That was on me."
Boller was replaced by backup Anthony Wright after he was sacked by defensive tackle Larry Triplett with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter. The X-rays taken at the stadium were negative, and it's unclear how long Boller will be out until he has a magnetic resonance imaging exam today on what Billick called a severe turf toe.
"The toe is sore," said Boller, who left the locker room on crutches. "I've never had any foot problems before. It's concerning because it's my plant foot."
Some fans cheered when Boller was helped off the field by trainers.
"I was disappointed in that," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "I love the fans of Baltimore, but that was a little bit classless, and that's not them. I know they want us to go out there and win, but Kyle is our guy. He is our quarterback and we are going to stand by him."
Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister dropped a potential 100-yard interception return in the second quarter when a Manning pass hit him in the hands. Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed dropped another interception.
"No sacks, no turnovers, that's not our type of football," McAlister said. "Obviously, we like to capitalize on opportunities."
On the ensuing play, Mike Vanderjagt knocked in a 20-yard field goal for the Colts' first score as the Ravens experienced a momentum-draining 10-point swing.
Free safety Will Demps' interception earlier in that scoring drive was negated by defensive end Terrell Suggs' offsides penalty. Suggs would jump offsides again three plays later, contributing to Baltimore trailing 3-0 at halftime.
McAlister was beaten by Marvin Harrison for a 28-yard touchdown catch after halftime, flailing his hands a few steps behind the All-Pro wide receiver. It was the first of Manning's two scoring tosses in the third quarter.
The touchdown to Harrison marked the 83rd time Manning and Harrison have connected for a score. It marks the second-most in NFL history behind Steve Young and Jerry Rice's total of 85 touchdown passes.
The score could have been prevented if not for nickel back Dale Carter's illegal-use-of-the hands penalty earlier in the drive. Carter shoved a receiver in the face as Manning threw an incompletion for 3rd-and-8
One series later, Manning found tight end Ben Utech for a 26-yard touchdown behind nickel back Deion Sanders for a commanding 17-0 advantage.
The first half could have ended on at least a 3-3 tie if not for wide receiver Clarence Moore's costly drop.
Moore, who struggled markedly with his hands during the preseason, dropped a pass deep in Colts territory with six seconds left in the first half that could have at least set up a field goal. On the next play, he compounded the error by jumping offsides.
In the fourth quarter, B.J. Sams' 89-yard punt return down to the Colts' 1 was wiped out by a block in the back penalty committed by safety Chad Williams.
"Just lack of focus," Billick said.
Boller completed 15 of 23 passes for 141 yards, an interception and a 63.9 quarterback rating. He recovered a fumbled snap.
Wright fared even worse than Boller. After completing five of his first seven attempts in the third quarter for 43 yards, Wright threw two fourth-quarter interceptions.
His final interception was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Cato June. With 13 seconds left, Wright threw a touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox to prevent the shutout.
Although Wright moved the Ravens into Colts territory in the fourth quarter, his earlier interception to middle linebacker Gary Brackett ruined another Baltimore scoring chance.
Ogden struggled against All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney again.
One year after allowing two sacks to the elite speed rusher in a 20-10 loss at the RCA Dome, Ogden committed two false start penalties and was often a step slow in failing to get a hand on Freeney. Freeney nailed running back Jamal Lewis on a couple of clean shots where he was completely unblocked.
Lewis gained 36 yards on 15 carries through three quarters, most of it coming on a 25-yard run in the first half. Once the Ravens fell behind 3-0, he was taken out of the game plan as the Ravens unsuccessfully tried to generate a comeback through the air. He broke his left index finger, but said he'll play next week.
Wright fumbled in the final two minutes after a sack by defensive end Robert Mathis, who ran right past Ogden, with defensive end Raheem Brock recovering the fumble.
"Nothing is more demoralizing than a loss," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "Then add in losing your starting quarterback and it's a downer."
NOTES: Reed suffered a thigh contusion. ... The Ravens' fans donated $195,000 toward the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, which will be matched by the organization. The Ravens raised a total of $1.215 million for the American Red Cross to benefit victims in the Gulf Coast.
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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