MIAMI—On the day that Ray Lewis returned, the rest of his teammates failed to show up.
In a game billed as a smash-mouth showdown, the Ravens proved to be featherweights.Clumsy on offense and clueless on defense, the Ravens suffered a 26-7 meltdown to the once-struggling Miami Dolphins yesterday before 73,013 at Pro Player Stadium.
The Ravens' offense that had run the ball at will against the Dolphins 10 months ago was running on empty yesterday. The Ravens were held to a season-worst 157 yards, having their ground game stuffed and their passing attack stopped by dropped passes and blistering sacks.
The defense got back their leader in Lewis, but this unit appeared lost. The Ravens, who pride themselves on an unpredictable defensive scheme, seemed to be the ones guessing against Miami's balanced attack.
"It was too many mistakes," said Lewis, who played his first game since injuring his shoulder. "This is the kind of game where we'll watch the film this week and say, `What were we thinking?' on some plays. I've never really seen that many mistakes.
"We had a small, small lack of attention. No matter how young you are or no matter how old you are, if you don't prepare right, this is the type of result that you get."
The Ravens were out-gained 337-157 and were dominated in time of possession 34:07 to 25:53, but the devastation of this game extended beyond the numbers.
Stomping off the field, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden cursed underneath his breath. Slouched in front of his locker, offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo stared blankly for minutes.
"For the first time, I have to admit that we regressed," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's always tough to lose, but we didn't get better today. This young group made a lot of mistakes. They need a day off, but we haven't earned it."
The loss drops the Ravens (4-6) into third place in the AFC North on a weekend where a win could have done wonders.
With a victory, the Ravens could have moved within a half game of the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1), who might be without injured quarterback Tommy Maddox for an extended period. Instead, the Ravens are one of three teams with losing records in the AFC.
"I told the guys before the game, `You win this game, you have got a chance to control your own destiny,' " Billick said. "Now, a whole bunch of other people have to do some things for us to be a playoff team."
The Ravens lost control of the game during a three-minute stretch of the second quarter.
After tying the game at 7 on a 28-yard touchdown catch by Travis Taylor, the Ravens couldn't match the determination of maligned Miami quarterback Ray Lucas.
The lowest-rated passer in the AFC before this game, Lucas connected on passes of 15, 25 and 8 yards to move Miami into the red zone and capped the 61-yard march with a 1-yard plunge. That touchdown put the Dolphins ahead 14-7 with 6:19 left in the second quarter as they scored the game's final 19 points.
"They came out and switched the game up on us," Lewis said. "They came out and threw the ball and misdirection plays and really had our secondary going around and had our linebackers not envisioning it right. They had a great game plan."
Said Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware: "When they went down and scored like that, it really took the wind out of us."
Lucas finished with 221 yards passing and completed 69 percent of his throws. Ricky Williams grinded out 102 yards rushing to become the third running back in five games to crack triple figures against the Ravens.
Losers of three straight, the Dolphins (6-4) had touchdown drives of 88, 61 and 82 yards and made the Ravens look like the ones lacking poise.
"Usually, you like to shut down one phase of the game," Boulware said. "But they ran and passed the ball effectively. That really kept us off balance."
Offensively, the Ravens were only a shell of themselves from 10 months ago, when they rolled up 226 yards on 50 carries in a playoff win at Miami. Yesterday, the Ravens totaled 66 yards on 22 carries.
Running back Jamal Lewis was held to 47 yards and averaged 2.8 yards a carry, breaking no run over 8 yards. Without a running threat, the Ravens had little chance to beat a talented Dolphins secondary that is geared for a team to throw every down.
"We got physically whupped," Lewis said.
The Ravens' passing attack followed suit as quarterback Jeff Blake was sacked seven times and connected on just half of his throws and his receivers Travis Taylor and Ron Johnson combined to drop at least six passes.
With the Ravens trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, Blake had a miscommunication with running back Chester Taylor and was picked off at midfield by Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain. Miami converted Blake's fifth interception into a 49-yard field goal by Olindo Mare.
On the next series, the Ravens called a flea-flicker and the ball hit off Johnson's chest inside the 20-yard line. Those types of mistakes contributed to the Ravens converting 15 percent of their third downs (2 of 13).
"We got stopped today," said Blake, who was 14-for-28 passing for 127 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "This is the first time since I've been playing that we actually got stopped. We couldn't move the ball."
Now, the Ravens have to show that their wilting in South Florida was an aberration, not the start of a young team breaking down. On Sunday, the Ravens will play host to the Tennessee Titans, the AFC's hottest team and winners of five in a row.
"The Titans are on a roll, and we have to be ready to play," Blake said. "We got a lot to prove next week when we play the Titans."