ST. LOUIS - Although the Ravens' defense pulled the plug on 'The Greatest Show on Turf." the team's offense became the main source of the St. Louis Rams' points last night.
Four of the Ravens' seven turnovers led to 20 points as they bowed to the Rams in a wild 33-22 loss before 66,085 at Edward Jones Dome.
The Ravens (5-4) remain in first place in the AFC North but saw their lead dwindle to one game over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Rams (6-3) won their 11th straight game at home, the longest streak in the NFL.
To make matters worse, a Ravens offense that re-established its rhythm in the red zone lost starting quarterback Kyle Boller for the entire second half. The rookie first-round pick banged knees with fullback Alan Ricard with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.
Boller, who was 10-for-21 for 112 yards, played out the rest of the quarter but his left knee stiffened up during halftime. He will undergo an MRI today in Baltimore.
In his most extensive action of the season, backup Chris Redman hurt the Ravens more than they helped them. He was 7-for-12 for 58 yards, threw two interceptions and was sacked several times.
Despite the haphazard quarterback change, the Ravens took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter, when Chester Taylor forced Rams punt returner DeJuan Groce to fumble at the St. Louis 28. In what was a sign to come, the Ravens sputtered with the prime opportunity but still went ahead 22-21 on a 41-yard field goal by Matt Stover.
The first lapse in the second half by the Ravens' defense cost it. After not allowing a first down in six consecutive drives, St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger hit Dane Looker for a 24-yard pass, setting up a 49-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins that pushed the Rams back ahead 24-22 to start the fourth quarter. The Rams offense finished with 121 total yards.
The defense was pushed back into its own territory shortly after when Redman forced a throw down the seam to tight end Todd Heap and was intercepted by Dunbar High graduate Tommy Polley.
The Ravens' third interception of the game led to a Wilkins' 46-yarder.
The offense again did the defense no favors when Jamal Lewis fumbled for the second time. Although the Rams failed to move the ball, they pulled ahead 30-22 with 5:25 left in the game.
The Ravens faced their largest first-quarter deficit of the season, spotting the Rams a 14-0 lead as a result of a drop and a hop.
After two 20-yard runs by Lewis put them deep in Rams' territory, Boller's third-down pass sailed through the hands of receiver Travis Taylor and to St. Louis cornerback Jerametrius Butler.
Boller's third interception in five games set up the Rams at the Ravens' 36-yard line.
Following a 24-yard pass to receiver Torry Holt, St. Louis run ning back Marshall Faulk punched it in with a 5-yard touchdown run. Faulk had missed the previous five games with hand and knee injuries.
Less than two minutes later, a punt by the Ravens' Dave Zastudil hit the Rams' 40-yard line and bounced 15 yards backward on the artificial surface where St. Louis' Dane Looker picked it up and ran it to the Ravens' 1.
On the next play, Faulk scored his second touchdown to stake the Rams to a 14-0 advantage just 5:32 into the game.
The Ravens slowly chipped away at that lead, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. The red zone once again became a sore area for the Ravens, who drove inside the 5-yard line twice only to come away with six points.
Their first foray inside the 20, which came off a Rams muffed punt return, started with Jamal Lewis running to the 4-yard line. But a Todd Heap holding penalty - the Ravens" fifth in the red zone in their past five games - pushed them back and the Ravens finished with a Matt Stover 41-yard field goal.
Their next red-zone trip bore similar frustration as the Ravens ran four plays from inside the 11-yard line. The drive ended in miscommunication as Boller threw to the corner of the end zone while Heap ran an inside slant. Stover's 25-yarder cut the gap to 14-6.
Once the Ravens found success in the red zone, they made it a game.
After a 40-yard pass to Taylor, Jamal Lewis pounded in a 2-yard touchdown, marking the Ravens" first in seven trips inside the 20. A failed two-point conversion kept the deficit at 14-12 with 6:43 left in the second quarter.
The Ravens" defense closed the first half by holding the potent Rams to no first downs on the last three drives. But the Ravens" offense helped St. Louis out on the scoreboard.
Lewis tried to pick up Rams safety Adam Archuleta on a blitz up the middle and inadvertently hit into Boller, who was attempting to rush a pass attempt. The ball slipped out of Boller's hands and Archuleta grabbed it off one bounce, racing 35 yards for the touchdown.
Boller's ninth fumble of the season expanded St. Louis' advantage to 21-12.
Not deterred, the Ravens responded with a little trickery. After marching 79 yards, Boller made a play-action fake to Lewis and flipped a pass to wide-open left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who reported as an eligible reciver.
Ogden's second career touchdown inched them within 21-19 with 1:19 left in the first half.
The game wouldn't have been as close without the strong play of the Ravens' defense. Despite three turnovers, the Ravens held the Rams in check, limiting them to 38 yards of total offense and four first downs in the first half.