Ravens edged by Titans on late drive

BALTIMORE -- In the wake of a controversial loss to the Tennessee Titans fueled by a disputed roughing the passer penalty called on outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in the fourth quarter, it's debatable whether the Baltimore Ravens are angrier at referee Bill Carollo or themselves.

Although Suggs insisted that he never crashed into Kerry Collins' helmet, the Ravens and their top-ranked defense never seemed to recover emotionally as the quarterback they exploited in Super Bowl XXXV got the final word in a 13-10 Baltimore loss Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium that boosted the undefeated Titans to a 5-0 mark.

This marks the second consecutive loss by the Ravens (2-2), who have lost those contests by a total of six points.

"Obviously this is a very disappointing loss, one that we are hurting about," coach John Harbaugh said. "We should have won the football game, but we didn't win the football game."

After the drive was kept alive by Suggs' penalty on 3rd-and-10 at the Titans' 20-yard line, Collins engineered an 80-yard touchdown march capped by a game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alge Crumpler with 1:56 remaining.

"We let them drive the length of the field, and we n ever do that," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "We play so dominant for so long, but we've got to learn to finish it out. We play a tough schedule this year. We had better learn to win some tight games.

"We just waited until the last second for our worst drive of the day. It's a tough way to lose a ballgame."

The last time Collins started against Baltimore, he threw four interceptions for the New York Giants in a 34-7 loss in a disastrous Super Bowl meltdown. He was intercepted twice Sunday, but was good enough at the end as he distributed the football to tight ends Bo Scaife and Crumpler for five of his final seven completions.

"It's hard for me to forget that one," Collins said of the 2001 setback. "That wasn't one of my better days, and it was on my mind."

On the final score, Collins noted that middle linebacker Ray Lewis took himself out of the coverage area by reacting to a double move.

"We could have done a couple things to help ourselves out," said safety Jim Leonhard, who was in Crumpler's vicinity. "It's frustrating because we knew it was coming, but it was a lack of execution. We've got to get off the field. We let them drive 80 yards and that can't happen."

Preoccupying the Ravens' thoughts afterward was Suggs' penalty for a blow to Collins' helmet even though it didn't appear to be much more than incidental contact and the referees had blown the whistle on Titans offensive tackle Michael Roos for a false start prior to the personal foul.

Under the NFL's 5-15 rule, the personal foul overrides the five-yard penalty. Plus, the players didn't stop playing after the whistle had blown dead.

"If anybody can go back and show something I did illegal, then I would be happy to say I messed up and got what I deserved," Suggs said. "We hit arms. It just goes to show the referee has too much power."

"We are the bad boys of football. They are always going to look at us like that. From the way the game was going, I think the referee just probably wanted to feel important."

Carollo, who made the call, insisted that Suggs hit the right side of Collins' helmet.

"Nothing against the officials, but they are not always our friends," said running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for 64 yards on 22 carries despite bruised ribs.

It was a chippy game overall marked by several confrontations as the Titans were penalized 10 times for 79 yards, including a couple of 15-yard infractions that spearheaded both of the Ravens' scoring drives.

Baltimore was flagged 11 times for 91 yards.

"It was a war out there," fullback LeRon McClain said. "There was some dirty stuff going on from their part."

"It was like a street fight," Titans wide receiver Brandon Jones said.

Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco had a rough outing.

The first-round draft pick was intercepted by Titans cornerback Nick Harper at the Ravens' 35-yard line on a pass intended for wide receiver Mark Clayton after Tennessee went up 13-10 on Crumpler's touchdown catch.

It was Flacco's second interception while rolling out to his right and trying to make something happen. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 153 yards and no touchdowns for a 50.4 quarterback rating.

"Sometimes with young quarterbacks, their vision isn't quite as wide as you want it to be," Harbaugh said. "He didn't see some of those coverages, but I am sure he will see it next time. Those were two throws that clearly shouldn't have been made that he would like to have back."

The Ravens built a 10-3 advantage on a 71-yard touchdown drive to start the second half and break a 3-3 tie at halftime. Flacco hit wide receiver Demetrius Williams for 22 yards and the Titans were flagged twice for personal fouls, including cornerback Cortland Finnegan tackling McGahee out of bounds.

McClain plunged in from the 1-yard line for his fourth touchdown of the season as temperamental defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth got hit with a 15-yard foul on the extra point.

This was the first time the Titans have trailed in the second half, and the first points scored against their vaunted front four in the third quarter all season.

It was the second week in a row that the Ravens were lamenting one that got away following a 23-20 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.

"That's a hard pill to swallow, but we got to move on," said cornerback Fabian Washington, who left the game with a shoulder injury. "This isn't horseshoes because close doesn't count. I don't believe in moral victories."

"We are only human," Suggs said. "We are .500, and this isn't going to make us or break us."

Tennessee rebounded from McClain's touchdown to close the gap to 10-6 with 12:49 remaining on kicker Rob Bironas' 26-yard field goal that culminated a 13-play, 81-yard drive where Jones caught three passes for 54 yards. The score followed Flacco throwing a pass across his body that safety Michael Griffin picked off.

During that drive, cornerback Frank Walker's interception was nullified when he was flagged for defensive holding.

Although the Titans had just four first downs and 68 total yards in the first half, they finished the game strongly and Collins was never sacked.

In the first half, the Ravens scored on a 38-yard Matt Stover field goal after an interception by nose guard Justin Bannan on Haloti Ngata's deflection. However, Stover, who's off to an uncharacteristic rough start this year with three misses between 40 and 49 yards, missed a 45-yard attempt with 10 seconds left in the half.

Harbaugh opted for the field goal with 14 seconds remaining rather than take a shot at the end zone with no timeouts remaining.

"Well, you're sitting at 14 seconds and so many things can happen that aren't good that take you out of field-goal range," Harbaugh said. "We had no timeouts. The chances of scoring a touchdown are minimal, and you have to score a touchdown there to improve your position.

"So, we've got a pretty sure thing, we think. We kick a field goal. To me, that is a no-brainer. That's an easy choice."

Now, the Ravens have to travel to the Indianapolis Colts next week following two disappointing losses. They'll have the dual task of preparing for star quarterback Peyton Manning while trying not to think about two setbacks.

"This could be the turning point of our season," Bannan said. "We don't have a choice. We've got to bounce back. If we sit here and dwell on this, it will bury us and we can't have that."


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