Ravens lose to Broncos as Boller unravels

DENVER -- In a disastrous meltdown that qualifies as one of his most disturbing performances, embattled quarterback Kyle Boller significantly damaged the Baltimore Ravens' cause Sunday. His erratic, head-scratching play ultimately did a lot to prevent the Ravens from toppling the Denver Broncos in a 12-10 defeat at Invesco Field. It marked their 10th consecutive road loss.

With two interceptions in the red zone and an unforced fumble, Boller clearly regressed as each mistake was topped by a new low point. Each raised more doubt about the struggling third-year starter's future.

"If I could never turn the ball over, I would love it," Boller said. "I'm going to make mistakes. I am human."

Despite throwing a touchdown pass to rookie Mark Clayton with 1:52 remaining, Boller was wild on several misfired throws to wide-open receivers throughout the game.

The lowest-rated starter in the NFL completed 23 of 39 passes for 251 yards for a pedestrian 65.2 passer rating. The Ravens (4-9) failed to score a touchdown in three trips inside the Broncos' 20.

"I can't say nothing else, it comes to a point where Kyle knows what he has to do," receiver Derrick Mason said. "I'm still behind him, but he knows what he shouldn't do.

"Kyle is playing hard, but I think in certain situations you got to know what's going on. He showed flashes, but he's got to be consistent."

With the game tied at 3 at the end of the first half, Boller tripped over his own feet, sprang up and rambled toward the sideline. Instead of throwing it away and settling for a field goal and a 6-3 lead, Boller forced the throw off his back foot to tight end Todd Heap who was well-covered by safety Nick Ferguson.

"Yeah, I kind of made a bad play worse," Boller said. "In that case, throw it away. Sometimes you're in the heat of the game and you want to make a play. You can make plays other times."

Ferguson's interception on the short-armed throw set up a 48-yard Jason Elam field goal. Denver (10-4) never relinquished its lead.

"You just can't make those kind of mistakes and beat anyone," Billick said. "Kyle's weren't the only ones, but his were obvious and glaring.

"The one at the end of the half was ill-advised to put it kindly. Hopefully, I won't see another one like that. Sure, it is troubling to me."

Boller wasn't the only player whose critical errors cost the team dearly.

Chester Taylor, who started because Jamal Lewis was a late scratch with a hand injury, fumbled on a hit from safety John Lynch.

"That was unfortunate," Billick said. "Those kind of mistakes tend to get you beat."

Eight plays later, unrushed quarterback Jake Plummer looked off cornerback Chris McAlister twice and hit fullback Kyle Johnson for a 7-yard touchdown and a 12-3 advantage.

After Taylor drove the Ravens to the Broncos' 15 on the ensuing drive with 31 yards on four carries, Boller did it again.

He stared down Heap and uncorked an errant throw that All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey was surprised to intercept since he was clearly out of position.

"The first one was a broken play, the second one was a bad read," Boller said.

With 9:54 remaining in a debatable decision, Billick aggressively tried to score a touchdown on 4th-and-1 rather than kick a field goal and close the gap to 12-6. Taylor was stuffed for a 4-yard loss. With that much time remaining, the decision seemed puzzling.

"Being down on the 1-yard line, given our circumstances, it was too much to pass up our chances," Billick explained. "To kick the field goal and then go the distance to score a touchdown on the 1-yard line, let's go ahead and do it."

Billick's choice backfired badly, though. It was just another major obstacle the last-place Ravens didn't overcome.

"I'm not going to second-guess the coaches, they made the call and we're going to live with that as a team," Mason said. "You need to ask coach Billick if he made the right call or not.

"He'll probably give you a straight answer. He'll probably give you one of those intelligent answers. Go ask him. You ought to get a mouthful."

Then, Boller flubbed again.

Scrambling out of the pocket, he simply dropped the football even though he wasn't touched or even harassed.

"It just fell out of my hands, I can't catch a break, I guess," Boller said. "I can't give you any other reason."

The Ravens demonstrated little confidence in Boller's abilities on the opening drive following B.J. Sams' energizing 87-yard kickoff return.

On third down at the Broncos' 11, Boller went to the sidelines and Clayton took the snap and threw incomplete to Taylor on a backyard shovel pass. Baltimore had to settle for a 29-yard Matt Stover field goal, killing the momentum.

Following Boller's 39-yard pass to Clayton that was ruled a score after an instant-replay review, Broncos wide receiver Ashley Lelie ran for a first down on a reverse. Billick burned his final timeout, and Jake Plummer kneeled three times to end the game.

"It's real frustrating," Mason said. "There's nothing you can take out of this game. What it boils down to is wins and losses. That's what makes a franchise and that's what breaks one."

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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