CLEVELAND—In a season loaded with disappointments, the Ravens reached the bitter end yesterday.
Giving away a 13-point lead to the reeling Cleveland Browns, the Ravens admittedly folded in a season-ending, 20-16 loss before a half-filled Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Ravens' 11th straight road loss - the longest current skid in the NFL - stopped any momentum from a two-game winning streak and reared old questions about whether the coaches, players and the quarterback are in place to take this team in the right direction.
"We didn't really come to play today," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "You can't step on this field with no passion. The will and the want is one thing. But to come out and go through the motions, it's nonsense.
"We weren't true professionals today. Obviously, we didn't turn it on at a certain point. We were at a point where they would have shut it down if we would have done anything. But it went the opposite way."
The Ravens seemingly were on their way to their first road win since November 2004 when Thomas returned a fumble 9 yards for a touchdown, staking them to a 13-0 lead with 7:05 left in the second quarter.
Unable to deliver the finishing blow, the Ravens quickly dissolved into a scoring-challenged team after taking a 16-6 advantage in the third quarter. The Browns (6-10) scored two touchdowns in 1:22 to break a 12-quarter drought, turning the game around on a 6-yard touchdown catch by Antonio Bryant and a 62-yard punt return for a score by Dennis Northcutt.
It was another of many humbling defeats for the Ravens (6-10), who wrapped up their worst season in the seven-year Brian Billick era.
The Ravens crumbled to a turmoil-ridden Browns team that lost, 41-0, to Pittsburgh last week, nearly fired general manager Phil Savage two days ago and hadn't won an AFC North game all season.
"We didn't have the intensity. We didn't match the momentum swings," said Billick, who was retained for next season four days ago. "We had plenty of opportunities to put points on the board early in the game and create separation and didn't do it - reminiscent of the early problems in the season. It's very disappointing to revert back to it."
The Ravens' offense never resembled the one that scored eight touchdowns and averaged 401 yards the past two games.
Looking more like their long-struggling attack from the first three months of the season, the Ravens managed 267 yards, 12 first downs and countless ill-timed penalties as they failed to score an offensive touchdown for the fourth time this season.
In fact, they couldn't punch it into the end zone despite three trips into the red zone - including two inside the Browns' 6-yard line - and running 21 of 37 first-half plays in Cleveland territory.
If not for a two-lateral, 48-yard interception return to set up a field goal, the Ravens might not have scored in the second half. After the Ravens fell behind in the third quarter, the offense never drove past the Cleveland 49.
"We had the game and we beat ourselves. You name it and we did it," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "I felt like these last couple of weeks we really turned the corner. This was a little bit of a setback."
Riding the best two-game stretch of his career, Boller cooled considerably, completing 15 of 36 passes for 151 yards - the third-fewest yards in a game for Boller this season. Facing more pressure than he has seen recently, Boller fell into the same bad habits of rushing his mechanics, throwing off his back foot and misfiring to open receivers.
Billick acknowledged that Boller regressed "a little bit," but he declined to evaluate his quarterback's future.
"It's hard. I've got a whole offseason to assess that," Billick said. "We'll address that at the appropriate time."