Broncos 12, Ravens 10
Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick was still wearing sunglasses well after the sun had settled behind the Rocky Mountains just west of Invesco Field on Sunday night.
Unfortunately for Billick, they were not enough to shield his eyes from the gruesome miscues that doomed the Ravens' chances of upsetting the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos.
Denver snapped a four-game losing streak to the Ravens with a 12-10 victory in front of 72,440, but the game more aptly could be described as a Baltimore loss. The Ravens turned over the ball four times, three courtesy of quarterback Kyle Boller, and they remained ineffective in the red zone, coming away with one field goal in four drives inside the Denver 25-yard line.
"We made enough errors to lose 10 games," Billick said. "You can't have those kind of mistakes and beat anyone, let alone a team like that."
The loss was Baltimore's 10th in a row on the road -- a streak that dates from November of last season -- and it ended the Ravens' recent mastery of Denver. Baltimore won the teams' previous four meetings by a combined 101-45.
Despite the turnovers, the ineffectiveness deep in Denver territory and a depleted lineup (six starters were out, including running back Jamal Lewis and linebacker Ray Lewis), Baltimore was within striking distance late in the game. With 1 minute 52 seconds to play, Boller hooked up with Mark Clayton for a 39-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to two.
With two timeouts remaining, Baltimore opted to kick the ball deep on the ensuing kickoff and rely on its defense instead of attempting an onside kick. But Denver wide receiver Ashley Lelie picked up eight yards and a first down on a reverse, allowing the Broncos to run out the clock. Safety Ed Reed had a shot at Lelie short of the first down marker, but he could not make the tackle.
Still it was the offense's miscues -- not any missed tackles -- that deserved the blame for Sunday's loss.
Baltimore's B.J. Sams returned the opening kickoff 87 yards to the Denver 10-yard line, but the Ravens managed minus-one yard on three plays and had to settle for a field goal.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens had a first down on the Denver 5 but could not reach the end zone on four plays. Baltimore had two shots from the 1-yard line, but Boller threw incomplete on third down, and running back Chester Taylor was stopped for a loss of four yards on fourth down.
Taylor also fumbled on Baltimore's third offensive play of the second half to set up the Broncos' lone touchdown, and Boller fumbled in the fourth quarter without being hit by a Denver defender.
"It just fell out of my hands," Boller said.
Most debilitating were Boller's two interceptions, both of which were thrown with Baltimore deep in Denver territory.
The first, late in the first half, summed up Baltimore's disappointing season as well as any play this year.
With the game tied at 3, Baltimore faced third and 10 from the Denver 24. After throwing two passes that nearly were intercepted by Champ Bailey, Boller took the snap on third down, tripped and fell. He managed to get back on his feet, but while back-peddling toward the left sideline, he lofted an ill-advised throw in the direction of tight end Todd Heap, who was double-covered in the end zone. Denver's Nick Ferguson easily made the interception.
Had Boller thrown the ball away, the Ravens could have attempted a field goal of approximately 41 yards. Instead, Denver had the ball back and drove 50 yards in five plays to set up a 48-yard field goal as time expired.
"The [interception] at the end of the half was ill-advised," Billick said, "to put it kindly."