By the time Orlando Brown knocked the Tennessee Titans' Jevon Kearse down, presumably in defense of teammate Terry Jones, it already had been a rough afternoon for Brown and the rest of the Ravens' offensive line during yesterday's 20-17 first-round playoff loss.
In the trenches, the Ravens couldn't create holes for running back Jamal Lewis, the 2,066-yard rusher whom Tennessee limited to 35 yards on 14 attempts. In the passing game, the Ravens found their bearings late, but the line still allowed two sacks of quarterback Anthony Wright.
But of all the insults visited upon the Ravens' line, it was Brown's unnecessary roughness penalty that particularly stands out, as it played a key role in the end of the team's season.
It helped give Tennessee the field position it needed on a drive in the final 2:44 that ended with a 46-yard field goal by Gary Anderson with 29 seconds left.
Afterward, Brown was contrite, while also contending that he was simply trying to rescue Jones, who was tangled up with Kearse.
"It wasn't anything intentional," Brown said. "I just see my man [Kearse] choking one of my boys [Jones], and I was like, `Get off.' I heard my man hollering."
Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: "Unfortunately, in the heat of the battle, things like that will happen. It's unfortunate things like that will cost you."
But not only did Kearse see the events differently, he also knew to expect aggressive behavior from Brown.
Earlier in the game, Brown shoved Kearse after a 2-yard Lewis run deep in Tennessee territory, leading to a personal foul that hampered a possible touchdown drive, with the Ravens settling for a field goal and a 10-7 lead shortly before halftime.
As Kearse saw it, the challenge was to not react to Brown after the whistle.
"He tries to bully and intimidate people," Kearse said. "And it doesn't matter what part of the game it is. He's trying to get in your head, and it's a gamble that he's willing to take, but we weren't having it today."
The second penalty -Kearse was on top of Jones as the pair got tangled up, and Brown shoved Kearse - was not decisive in itself. After all, Wright's third-down pass was incomplete, so the 15-yard penalty didn't ruin a big play.
But it made the Ravens punt from their 20-yard line. Even with a respectable 43-yard punt by Dave Zastudil, the Titans got the ball at their 37-yard line and needed to go only 35 yards in 2:15 to set up the field goal by Anderson.
As Brown saw it, it was a matter of protecting a teammate, though as an eight-year veteran aware of the stakes, he knew better.
"They never get the first man," he said. "I should have grabbed myself. They never get the first dude. I know that."
Late hits go both ways
Asked about the two penalties called on Brown, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis refused to blame Brown and shifted the attention to the other locker room.
He didn't complain, but did note that he was the recipient of several late hits by the Titans.
"You have a guy take a cheap shot at my knees just for nothing," Lewis said. "And they tell me that they had a bounty on my head. There were people diving at my knees, diving at my ankles from the back."
In defense of Brown, Lewis said, "Don't create that. Orlando Brown did not lose us this football game."
Underthrown pass hurts
The Ravens' defense had three interceptions against the NFL's leader in passer rating, Steve McNair, and the unit's biggest slip-up came on a ball that was underthrown.
Tennessee's biggest play through the air was McNair's 49-yard touchdown pass to Justin McCareins midway through the third quarter that gave the Titans a 14-10 lead.
On that play, Gary Baxter seemed destined to thwart McNair's attempt to go long to McCareins, just as Chris McAllister would do later in the game in picking off a pass intended for Derrick Mason.
"I was step for step with the guy," Baxter said of the play on second-and-eight.
But a funny thing happened on the way to third down. The pass down the left sideline was underthrown. McCareins noticed it; Baxter noticed too late.
"He made a great play and caught it," Baxter said. "If it were a perfectly thrown ball, I would have had it. You don't expect things like that to happen, but he made a great play."
Big play by Demps
With Tennessee gaining 5 yards or more on seven of its first 11 offensive plays, it seemed nothing would go right for the Ravens' defense yesterday.
It was Ravens free safety Will Demps who made the first play that reversed the tide, intercepting a pass tipped by Ed Reed and returning it 56 yards to put his team on the scoreboard and tie the game at 7.
It was the first NFL touchdown for the second-year player from San Diego State, and it was vital for a team whose offense couldn't click until later in the second half.
"Three receivers were to the left and one to the right," he said. "I just went over there and it was a good play by Reed. ... It was one of those things that got the momentum going."
Zastudil bounces back