- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

BALTIMORE — With their postseason hopes out of their hands, the Baltimore Ravens were forced to wait a few more agonizing hours before the epitaph was put on their season.

The Ravens remained alive by defeating the Miami Dolphins 30-23 yesterday in the regular-season finale before 69,843 at M&T; Bank Stadium, but the Denver Broncos (10-6) officially ended Baltimore’s season about three hours later when they beat the Indianapolis Colts 33-14 to grab the final AFC wild-card spot.

The Ravens finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for just the second time in the past five years. The New York Jets (10-6) claimed the other AFC wild card.

“It was a great win, we took care of business,” said Ravens defensive end Anthony Weaver, who recorded his first career interception with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter and the Dolphins threatening to tie the game at the Ravens’ 3.

Baltimore, however, entered the last week of the season needing four things to go their way: beat the Dolphins; have Pittsburgh defeat Buffalo (the Steelers won); Oakland defeat Jacksonville (the Jaguars won); and the Colts beat the Broncos.

By beating the Dolphins, the Ravens snapped a two-game losing streak, but it didn’t diminish the fact that the Ravens won only twice since Thanksgiving and won just two of their final six games.

A season that started with audacious Super Bowl talk ended with a whimper. Against the lowly Dolphins (4-12), the Ravens blew a 27-7 third-quarter lead and were forced to hang on in the fourth quarter against third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

Rosenfels, who made his first career start, tossed three interceptions — one that was returned for a touchdown and another that set up the Ravens’ third touchdown of the game — but still made enough plays to keep the Dolphins in it.

A fourth-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 2001, Rosenfels, who had attempted just 10 passes in his four-year career, was 16 of 38 for 264 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens.

Rosenfels made a quick statement when he connected on a 76-yard bomb to receiver Chris Chambers on the game’s first play to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.

“I’m still disappointed that we lost,” Rosenfels said. “I felt I didn’t make enough plays to win this game today. It’s been four years since I played, and at times, I was rusty. I did make some plays but the loss is the only thing that is affecting me right now. It wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”

The Ravens received a supreme effort from Jamal Lewis who gained 167 yards on 34 carries with one touchdown to surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fourth time in his five-year career. Lewis, who missed five games because of a two-game suspension and injury, finished with 1,006 yards.

“Everything went down for a reason,” Lewis said. “I kind of set my goals to get at least 1,000 yards. The way the season was going, I had to prove what kind of back I was, in overcoming adversity, getting a lot of yards, so it was a great accomplishment.”

On the way to a 20-7 halftime lead, the Ravens tied it on a 1-yard Kyle Boller shovel pass to backup tight end Terry Jones Jr. Two Matt Stover field goals (25 and 19 yards) and a 6-yard second quarter interception return by backup defensive end Jarret Johnson broke the game open for the Ravens.

The Dolphins outscored the Ravens 16-10 in the second half and made it a one-touchdown game (30-23) early in the fourth quarter when Lewis fumbled at the Ravens 3 and Boller recovered the miscue in the end zone for a Dolphins safety.

Trailing by a touchdown, Miami had three possessions to even the score but fizzled at the 50, the Ravens 42, and their own 44 before time ran out on their comeback attempt.

Notes — Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis was inactive yesterday with a wrist injury. … Stover moved into 10th place on the NFL’s all-time scoring list with his 12-point game. Stover has 1,481 points to pass Pat Leahy (1,470) and Steve Christie (1,472). … Ravens safety Ed Reed broke the NFL record for return yards in a season with a 41-yard, third-quarter interception. Reed’s ninth interception of the season gave him 358 return yards, breaking Charlie McNeil’s mark of 349 set in 1961 with San Diego.

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