BALTIMORE The Baltimore Ravens probably wish Elvis wasn’t in the house yesterday.
Baltimore’s Elvis Grbac posted one of the franchise’s worst performances by a quarterback in a game that was proclaimed to be a revenge match against a trash-talking divisional upstart.
Ravens fans haven’t seen quarterbacking this bad since their inaugural 4-12 season when Vinny Testaverde was chucking the pigskin all over 33rd Street.
Grbac threw four interceptions and lost a fumble as he played a major part in handing the Cleveland Browns a 27-17 victory before 69,353 at PSINet Stadium.
It didn’t take Ravens fans long to turn on their $30 million quarterback. Signed to a five-year deal in the offseason to lead the Ravens offense out of the Dark Ages, the crowd started booing Grbac in the second quarter and didn’t stop until the Ravens dropped their first home game of the season. Throughout most of the game, fans were calling for backup quarterback Randall Cunningham.
“You can chalk this loss on me,” Grbac said. “I made too many mistakes.”
Tony Banks…. Stoney Case…. Scott Mitchell…. Trent Dilfer…. Grbac…. Cunningham…. and back to Grbac. Who needs a quarterback controversy when you have a quarterback carousel under third-year coach Brian Billick?
Cunningham went 2-0 as a starter when Grbac was out with bruised ribs. The Ravens (6-4) can’t afford giving away another game this way if they plan on winning the AFC Central division.
Billick remained defiant on his starting quarterback even though his team was swept this season by the Browns, who won 24-14 in Cleveland on Oct. 21. The momentum the Ravens gained by winning road games at the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans the past two weeks suddenly vanished after losing to the Browns (5-4).
“Elvis is our starting quarterback,” Billick said. “I think our best chance to win is with Elvis as quarterback. We weren’t able to capitalize on offense as well as we should have.”
Grbac’s four interceptions tied a team record that Testaverde set on Nov. 3, 1996 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Memorial Stadium. Grbac is 4-4 this season as the Ravens starter and has tossed 13 interceptions to nine touchdowns.
On the opening possession of the second half with the Ravens trailing 20-7, Grbac was intercepted in the end zone by Browns rookie cornerback Anthony Henry to kill the 70-yard drive with 8:25 left in the third quarter.
The Browns took a 17-0 second-quarter lead when reserve safety Devin Bush returned an interception off Grbac 43 yards for a touchdown 8:09 before halftime. Grbac, who has thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles in two games against the Browns, tried to hit wide receiver Travis Taylor on a short slant.
Bush, who faked blitz, held his ground on the left flat. Grbac assumed Bush was coming and tried to throw over him. Bush jumped up, snared Grbac’s errant throw and ran untouched down the right sideline.
Grbac insists he has full support in the Ravens locker room. That notion is debatable.
“There’s a reason why Brian went out into the free agent market and paid Elvis to be the guy who can pull the trigger and make it happen,” tight end Shannon Sharpe said. “And 10 games into the season, it hasn’t happened the way we’d like it to. I’m very disappointed. I can’t say what I truly feel.”
For the game, Grbac was 23 of 44 for 261 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Grbac finished with a poor 47.6 passer rating. As bad as Grbac was, the Ravens had an opportunity to win the game or send it into overtime in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 20-17, the Ravens squandered two early fourth quarter possessions and were forced to punt both times. During those two possessions, Grbac completed one of four passes for six yards, was flagged for a false start for bobbing his head, and was sacked for an 8-yard loss by Browns linebacker Jamir Miller.
With the game quickly slipping away in the first half, Grbac hit wide receiver Brandon Stokley for a diving 21-yard touchdown strike to cut the deficit to 17-7 with 5:34 left before halftime.
Grbac cut the Browns lead to 20-14 in the third quarter on a 24-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Todd Heap for his first career touchdown reception.
For the Ravens record-setting defense, having to carry the offense week in and week out is getting old.
“We went out there and we did not execute,” defensive tackle Sam Adams said. “Offensively, it speaks for itself. I’m not on offense, so I don’t like to speak for it.”