2nd thoughts for Lewis on 4th down


Coordinator assumed Flutie wouldn't try to run

November 02, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Brian Billick refused to second-guess defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis' strategy, although Lewis took care of the second-guessing himself.

"I probably have one call every week where you want to take it back," Lewis said.

Lewis was referring to his decision to employ a three-man pass rush when Buffalo was down to its last shot with 2: 30 left in Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Bills. The Ravens had Buffalo in a fourth-and-15 hole at the Ravens' 39, with the Bills trailing 10-6. Lewis decided to drop eight defenders well off the line of scrimmage, fully expecting Bills quarterback Doug Flutie to try to get a critical first down through the air.

The Ravens shut off all of Flutie's passing options, but they failed to account for his well-known scrambling ability, and Flutie sprinted up the middle and to his left for 17 yards and the first down, keeping alive the game-winning drive.

Should the Ravens have kept one player, perhaps middle linebacker Ray Lewis, closer to the line of scrimmage to act as a spy and chase down Flutie before he reached the first-down marker? Lewis did tackle Flutie, but it happened 2 yards too late.

"For those of you that want to focus on what defense we were in on fourth-and-15, my focus has to be on the good calls they made to put [the Bills] in a fourth-and-15," Billick said. "I'm not going to get into second-guessing calls of anyone, least of all myself or my defensive coordinator.

"Everything we do, every call we make, has a certain analysis and thought put into it. We didn't react quite as quickly [to Flutie] as we needed to do in that situation. Had we, then it's a great call. I'm very comfortable with why [that defense] was called."

Lewis did not sound as comfortable.

"We didn't put anyone on [Flutie as a spy] all day," he said. Regarding the three-man rush, he said: "Maybe we'd change up the rush lanes a bit. Maybe we should have forced him to scramble around outside. I don't know. It causes no sleep, I know that.

"My thinking was, they had to gain 15 yards, we'll try to make him beat us by throwing the ball. We kind of lost our vision on him, and he gained 17 yards. We had some guys underneath who just didn't get it done. It could have been the ballgame. That's the thing that's horrible. Our entire football team played so hard."

On second thought, no

If he had it to do over again, Billick said he would not have sent Matt Stover out to attempt a 51-yard field goal late in the first half with the Ravens leading 10-0.

The kick was blocked, the Bills took over at their 42, and they drove 45 yards, enough for Steve Christie to kick a 25-yard field goal and trim the lead to 10-3 at halftime.

Billick said he thought he could make the Bills trash their running game in the second half by putting them in a 13-0 hole. He also admitted his emotions got the best of him by asking Stover to attempt a field goal that is typically beyond his range.

"I shouldn't have kicked it," Billick said. "No second-guessing about it. I set parameters for myself. When you talk yourself out of it and get into the emotion of the game, it usually comes back to haunt you. That was a mistake on my part."

Holmes still waiting

This time a year ago, running back Priest Holmes had his first career 200-yard rushing game behind him and was on a pace that would carry him to a 1,008-yard season as the Ravens' No. 1 tailback.

A year later, Holmes is recovered from a sprained knee, but long after Errict Rhett has taken the starting tailback job.

Holmes, who was injured in the season opener and played briefly in Week 2 before missing the next three games, is waiting for another chance to play. He has been active for the past two games but has yet to touch the ball.

Does he feel like a forgotten man?

"I wouldn't say that. I think that's just part of football," Holmes said. "I think we're all here to do the same thing. Winning ballgames is the No. 1 goal. If it was up to me, I'd be out there. That's really up to the coaching staff.

"My knee is fine. Actually, it's been fine for the last three weeks. It's just a matter of getting back on the field. As long as I get the opportunity to get back on the field, things will be set in motion again."

The Nedney watch

Kicker Joe Nedney's days appear to be numbered.

The Ravens picked up Nedney four weeks ago because they were dissatisfied with Stover's distance on kickoffs. The plan was to get a look at Nedney during at least one game, and gauge his field-goal strength and accuracy at practice, to see if he would be an alternative to Stover.

Billick said that Nedney -- who has yet to be activated for a game -- has not shown enough in practice to warrant Stover's release. Billick also said that Stover's kickoffs have improved.

Nedney just wants a shot.

"I haven't had much of a chance, haven't had any chance to show them what I can do during a game," Nedney said. "The true evaluation of what I do is during the game. I'm just waiting for my opportunity.

"When a team carries two place-kickers, it's a luxury to be able to activate both of them. You can't have any injury problems, and right now this team is getting healthier. So I'm hoping in the next couple of weeks, as the weather gets colder and the ball carries less off a lot of kickers' feet, they'll give me a chance to go out there and show my stuff."

Injury report

Billick said the offensive line came out of the Buffalo game in good shape. He expects right tackle Harry Swayne (leg contusion) to practice all week and start against Cleveland. Billick also expects backup tackle Spencer Folau (sprained knee) to be available against the Browns.

Folau sat out the Bills game.

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