In the final seconds of Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the disgruntled voices emanating inside M&T Bank Stadium shouted "Refs, you [stink]" while a crowd of 71,161 waved their fingers at the officials.

The Ravens, however, pointed at only themselves. Although they disagreed with three defensive penalties on the Bengals' game-winning drive, the Ravens blamed themselves - not the officials - for losing their grip on first place in the AFC North.

The final, painful blow came when the Ravens let Cincinnati wide receiver Andre Caldwell run wide open for a 20-yard touchdown catch with 22 seconds left, capping one of the most excruciating defensive series in team history.

Asked whether he questioned any of the defensive penalties on that critical series, coach John Harbaugh said: "I'm not thinking about it. I just think we have to play better. The idea is to play so well that those things become irrelevant."

He added: "You have to find a way not to have penalties. You have to find a way to get them sacked. You have to find a way to make a play - an interception, whatever it might be - and I think we all have to do a better job at that."

Overaggressiveness once again cost the Ravens' defense. On Oct. 4 in New England, it was roughing-the-passer penalties. Against the upstart Bengals, the flags came downfield.

Three penalties - illegal contact on Chris Carr, unnecessary roughness on Ray Lewis and pass interference on Frank Walker - accounted for 30 of the 80 yards on Cincinnati's last drive.

A second straight loss has dropped the Ravens (3-2) one game behind the Bengals (4-1) and into a second-place tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2).

"You don't get here by blaming other people and by making excuses," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "I don't think any of us are going to do that. We're not going to turn into those type of people now."

That's not to say the Ravens supported the officials' calls.

"It really [stinks] to get penalized for playing physical football like that," defensive end-linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I'm not sure if Ray hit him in the head. I'm not sure Chris Carr did illegal touching. I'm not sure if Frank Walker did illegal touching. In a game that close, I think it has to be 'Hands down, I got to call that.' "

The Ravens, whose offense was shut out for the first 53 minutes, put the game in the defense's hands with one big offensive play.

Catching a short pass at midfield, running back Ray Rice used his left arm to keep from falling down and raced down the sideline for his second career touchdown. His 48-yard score put the Ravens ahead 14-10 with 6:59 left in the game.

After holding the Bengals without a first down on the next series, the Ravens' defense thought it would close out the game when Cincinnati got the ball back at its own 20-yard line with 2:15 remaining.

Instead, the Ravens gave up their first fourth-quarter touchdown since the season opener.

"Being up and [getting a long field], I'd take that opportunity every day of the week," Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "I want to be in that opportunity every single time."

The three costly penalties on the final defensive series were:

* On the first play of that possession, Carr was called for illegal contact on Caldwell. Instead of an incomplete pass, the Bengals moved 5 yards and received another first down at their own 25-yard line.

"It wasn't the most obvious call on the face of the earth, you know," Carr said. "It wasn't like, man, he [abused] him."