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' electricity 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 and a national television audience.
The miscues ruined a dominating effort by the Ravens' defense, which held the Rams to a season-low 121 yards of total offense. At one point, the Ravens held the NFL's top-ranked offense without a first down on seven straight series.
St. Louis also had the drops with four turnovers, two by punt returner DeJuan Groce. The 11 total turnovers were a high for an NFL game this season.
But the Ravens' sloppiness lost them more than a two-game lead in the AFC North. Rookie quarterback Kyle Boller sprained his left knee in a collision and did not play the entire second half. His status will be evaluated today when he undergoes an MRI in Baltimore.
With or without Boller, the storyline remained the same for the Ravens, who tied a team record by turning the ball over seven times.
"It's very disappointing to lose like that with the mistakes," coach Brian Billick said. "I thought the team showed incredible resiliency on the road through all the things we made happen and didn't make happen. We'll come back and fight through it."
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.
The tone was set on the first drive that featured two big runs by Jamal Lewis and ended with an interception by Boller. The entire night was a series of one step forward and one stumble back.
Boller finished with one interception and a fumble, both of which were converted into touchdowns. Backup quarterback Chris Redman hurt the Ravens more than they helped them, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once and was sacked five times.
Even the offense's foundation, Jamal Lewis, cracked at critical times. The NFL's leading rusher had 111 yards on 27 carries for his seventh 100-yard game, but also lost two fumbles.
One came deep in Rams territory and another led to Jeff Wilkins' 48-yard field goal that put the Rams ahead 30-22 with 5:25 to play. It marked the first fumbles Lewis lost since the season opener.
"He can't do it and he knows that," Billick said. "He will do everything not to do it again."
To make matters worse, a Ravens offense that re-established its rhythm in the red zone lost 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.
In his most extensive action of the season, Redman looked like a quarterback who had thrown just one pass this season. He was 7-for-12 for 58 yards.
"Obviously, I struggled and turned the ball over too many times," Redman said. "I have to keep fighting and push through it and put it behind me. It was a rough start, but you can't find any excuses. You have to keep moving on."
Despite the haphazard quarterback change, the Ravens took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter, when Chester Taylor forced Rams returner 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.
Besides that, the Ravens defense was stout, holding the Rams to seven first downs and an average of 2.4 yards per play.
"We played a good game defensively but that was not our goal," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "Our goal is to win."
The defense was pushed back into its own territory shortly after that last field goal 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 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.
In the first half, Jamal 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.
"I think that play completely demoralized them," Rams coach Mike Martz said.
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 receiver.
Ogden's second career touchdown inched them within 21-19 with 1:19 left in the first half.
The game wouldn't be close without the strong play of the Ravens' defense, which in the first half limited the Rams to 38 yards of total offense and four first downs.
But the Ravens' offense became their defense's worst enemy last night.
"Our defense played a great game," Heap said. "We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We took ourselves out of a lot of drives and we did not convert when we needed to. What it comes down to is that we cannot turn the ball over as many times as we did and still win the game."