Pressured attack seeks release valve


Uncritical Billick looks for ways to burn foes' rushes

BWI fans thanked

January 09, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

There were a couple of drops, a couple of missed connections. Other than a 56-yard completion when Pro Bowl safety Blaine Bishop lost track of Shannon Sharpe, Trent Dilfer had little success downfield when he attempted to make the Tennessee Titans pay for their pressure Sunday.

"There were some opportunities to hit some players," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There was a lot of pressure. It's kind of a hit-or-miss thing against that defense. It can be big play, big play, or it can be miss, miss. They put a lot of pressure on us. There are a lot of things that we're clearly going to address, so many plays that could have gone either way."

As the Ravens prepare for the AFC championship game at Oakland this Sunday, Billick wasn't about to criticize his offense.

"We made a big play and scored a touchdown," Billick said. "We put ourselves in field-goal position, and we didn't turn the ball over. If that's what we have to do to win the game, so be it. If we have to open it up and clearly have to score more points, we'll endeavor to do that, too."

As familiar as the Ravens were with AFC Central rival Tennessee, they last played Oakland on Nov. 8, 1998, with Baltimore posting a 13-10 win at PSINet Stadium. The Ravens did have Oakland film broken down before Christmas, as they pondered in the last week of the regular season the possibility that they would play host to the Raiders rather than the Denver Broncos in their wild-card game.

One special-teams unit that needs tightening is the punt team, as two Kyle Richardson attempts were blocked by the Titans. That's three blocks in two playoff games, and Billick said some need to place their faith in adjustments that are made to blocking assignments.

"On the first one, they [the Titans] did a good job," Billick said. "The second one, we had adjusted, and it came down to a couple of players trying to do too much. You make an adjustment, and you've really got to rely on one another. When you have one player [deviate], he hurts himself, leaving it open. We eventually worked through it."

`West Coast' winners

Billick doesn't like the term "West Coast offense," but he acknowledges the influence of the coach whose philosophy was given that label. The four coaches left standing in the NFL - Billick, Oakland's Jon Gruden, Jim Fassel of the New York Giants and Minnesota's Dennis Green - either worked for Bill Walsh or were influenced by someone who worked for him.

"You have to go back to Bill Walsh, who set up a style, a mentality of preparation," Billick said of the former San Francisco 49ers coach and current general manager. "That's the legacy Bill leaves.

"When you go to people who have been exposed to that, look at what they do offensively, there are some similarities. [Seattle's] Mike Holmgren and [Denver's] Mike Shanahan are an extension of that as well. If you watch us prepare, from training camp to practice to preparation to how you handle game day, you'd come back and say, `These guys are all related.' "

Hope for Herring

If strong safety Kim Herring's ankle bruise continues to heal at its current pace, the Ravens' secondary could be back at full strength for the Raiders. Herring missed the Tennessee game, but Corey Harris played well as a fill-in starter.

Billick was not as encouraged about the status of Cornell Brown, the reserve linebacker who suffered a hamstring injury in the 10th minute and did not return.

"Kim Herring is improving. I'm more optimistic based on his workouts [Sunday]," Billick said. "The most serious concern right now is Cornell Brown. He's got a pretty serious hamstring pull."

Now arriving, AFC finalists

Billick thanked the thousands of fans who greeted the Ravens at BWI Airport on Sunday.

"Every time I see a number, it gets higher," Billick said. "It went from 3 to 4 to 5 thousand; it was a lot.

"The emotion they displayed - old people, young people, kids, families - they just wanted to be a part of it. If any of the players, my staff, myself, who are new to this region, did not understand the depth of emotion for this game, this team, what it means to this area, there's no mistake after going through the airport last night."

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