Ravens hit rock bottom, dig deeper

MIAMI -- As pandemonium erupted around them with flags being waved by the Miami Dolphins celebrating in pure jubilation, the Baltimore Ravens slumped into their locker room forever branded as the scarlet answer to a shameful sports trivia question. By virtue of their 22-16 overtime loss Sunday, the Ravens became the first football team to fall this season to the previously winless Dolphins.

This epic setback rivals any low point in a woebegone season, and it could define this campaign as perhaps the worst in franchise history.

The grim reality of the Ravens (4-10) now includes extending their franchise-record losing streak to eight games against arguably the worst team in the league, a squad that hadn't won a game since a Dec. 10, 2006 victory over the New England Patriots.

"This is pretty damn low," said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who has been with the Ravens for all dozen years of their existence. "Yeah, it's as bad as anything we've ever done."

Inside linebacker Bart Scott had a different take altogether on what the loss represents, instead characterizing it as another indignity to be endured in an ugly season for last year's AFC North champions.

"Nope, it's not a low point," Scott said. "It's two bad football teams playing, and they won."

Moments before former Baltimore castoff quarterback Cleo Lemon connected over the middle with obscure wide receiver Greg Camarillo for a game-winning 64-yard touchdown as he dashed past Jamaine Winborne, the unthinkable happened.

Traditionally automatic kicker Matt Stover's 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left and skidded to the ground. About one minute later, the Ravens' hopes were dashed on Camarillo's touchdown.

The missed kick left everyone involved, including Stover, shaking their heads in disbelief.

"We got beat by an 0-13 team and I was a piece of it; we'll hear it," Stover said. "I'll be on 'SportsCenter.' Oh well. Do I want to be that guy? No. But I've won plenty of games for this team, and you've got to take the bad with the good. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

"They put me out there thinking I'm going to make the field goal. That's exactly how I thought. I had already envisioned it through, and it didn't happen. I have to be that player that they can depend on game in and game out."

With rookie quarterback Troy Smith playing in relief of starter Kyle Boller after he left the game midway through the fourth quarter with a mild concussion, the Ravens had marched down to the Dolphins' 26-yard line behind a strong running game. However, Stover was unable to split the uprights and the rest is a historical fact.

Dolphins 26, Ravens 22.

"Actually, I was very shocked," Smith said regarding Stover's miss. "I thought it was money in the bank and I thought that everything was good. Matt Stover has been a clutch kicker his whole career."

Ravens coach Brian Billick made a debatable, albeit conservative decision at the end of regulation when he opted to have Stover kick an 18-yard field goal to tie the game rather than go for a touchdown and the win on 4th-and-goal at the Dolphins-1-yard line with 12 seconds remaining.

"I lobbied when I shouldn't have," Smith acknowledged. "The staff does an incredible job with game-planning and putting us in the situation to try to win the game. I was trying to give a call to say, 'Let's go for it,' but this is my first year in the league and as a rookie I have to keep my mouth shut and do exactly what needs to be done."

Running back Willis McGahee, who gained 104 yards on 29 carries, wasn't quite as diplomatic or accepting of the decision.

"I wanted a chance, but I guess because I didn't get it the first time on the goal line, my chances were gone," McGahee said. "I can't do nothing about it."

Billick defended his call, but admitted being somewhat conflicted.

"It's very tough to go all or nothing, but in our circumstance, why not," Billick said. "But we just ran the length of the field and there were things to draw on for us to go into overtime. But, yes, it would have been fun to try to go for it."

The fateful missed kick and touchdown pass transpired in overtime as several members of the 1972 perfect Dolphins championship team, including Don Shula, Bob Griese, Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka and Nick Buoniconti, watched from the sidelines.

"We missed the field goal, we had it," McGahee said. "The way our season has been going, man, I wasn't surprised. Too good of a drive."

Baltimore squandered a 10-point advantage, falling behind 16-13 with two minutes remaining on Jay Feely's 29-yard field goal.

But the Ravens still nearly won the game as Smith drove them 59 yards.

He hit wide receiver Devard Darling near the Dolphins' goal line and he appeared to get his knee down in the end zone. However, officials ruled him out of bounds at the 1-yard line.

"I thought I was in there," Darling said. "That's just the way it's been going for us this year."

Then, Billick sent Stover into the game rather than go for the win.

"I was hoping we could go for it, but coach went for the field goal," Darling said. "He's the head coach and we still had the opportunity to win the game, so it was a good decision."

Darling was involved in a bizarre play late in the third quarter where he nearly hauled in a deep Boller pass at the Dolphins' 14-yard line.

Instead, the football ricocheted out of Darling's grasp directly into the hands of cornerback Michael Lehan for his first NFL interception. It wound up leading to Feely's game-tying 22-yard field goal to knot the game at 13.

"I dove for it, felt I had it and, as soon as I hit the ground, it bounced off," Darling said. "It was my fault. It was a good throw. I should have had it. It was a game-changing play."

Prior to Feely's score, the Dolphins marched 82 yards on 15 plays as the Ravens had no answers for Lemon, who was cut after going through training camp with Baltimore in 2002.

This was Lemon's first victory as a starter since his senior year at Arkansas State in 2000.

He completed 23 of 39 passes for 315 yards, no interceptions, a 93.4 quarterback rating and the decisive touchdown to Camarillo.

The win allowed the Dolphins (1-13) to avoid becoming the first team to go 0-14 since the 1978 Tampa Buccaneers.

"It was like watching one of those plays in slow motion, and it's the Super Bowl and the miraculous catch and all those things," Dolphins defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday said. "It was up there like that for us. Maybe not for everybody else, but for us it was up there with all those great catches -- Dwight Clark and all those guys."

With the Ravens playing without starting cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister and middle linebacker Ray Lewis leaving the game with a dislocated finger on his left hand in the third quarter that was initially described as fractured, they will go down in history as the first team to lose to the Dolphins this year.

"I don't care what other people say," Scott said. "They don't fold my tacos. They don't pay my check."

Lemon had his way with them, as did shifty running back Lorenzo Booker, who caught six passes for 60 yards, and wide receiver Marty Booker on eight receptions for 80 yards.

When Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who terrorized Boller with two sacks and three quarterback hits, blocked Stover's 50-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half, it may have changed the momentum with Baltimore leading 13-3.

"When you lose eight in a row, everything stinks," center Mike Flynn said. "I've been involved with a few where you grab a defeat from the jaws of victory, and this is one of them."

Now, the Ravens will try to avoid ending the season on a 10-game losing streak with remaining games against two division leaders in the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It just means you've got to go back to the drawing board," linebacker Antwan Barnes said. "These last two weeks are going to test every man's heart and character."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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