Shaky line makes Grbac run for cover

S. Williams joins injured

no ground game allows Bengals to tee off on QB

Bengals 21, Ravens 10

September 24, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

CINCINNATI - With a little more than six minutes left in the Ravens' 21-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, quarterback Elvis Grbac took the snap, immediately rolled to his right and tossed a hurried incompletion in the direction of Qadry Ismail.

There was no five-step drop. No hanging in the pocket. Just an all-out bail by Grbac before his offensive linemen had a chance to get in their pass-protecting stances.

For the Ravens, that instance was not unique. Grbac spent much of the second half scrambling to his right away from pressure and either throwing the ball away or trying to force a completion with only half the field to work with.

"As a unit, we just have to handle some things better," center Mike Flynn said.

The offensive line again struggled to create room for running back Terry Allen early, then uncharacteristically struggled late fending off the Bengals' aggressive defense. Grbac was sacked twice and pressured countless other times.

"We just have to go back and look at the film," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "We have to go back and see if our blocking scheme wasn't right. We'll move forward. They played better today as a team."

Grbac attempted a career-high 63 passes, completing 33 for 326 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Such an extraordinarily high number of attempts are bound to create some pass protection problems, but the situation was compounded with another injury at right tackle.

Sammy Williams went down in the second quarter with a knee sprain, propelling Erik Williams into the lineup for his first game action as a Raven.

Erik Williams had not played in a game of any kind since December, and ended up in close to 60 offensive plays. The former All-Pro was signed to help with the loss of Leon Searcy, who will not be back for another month with a torn triceps suffered in the preseason.

The player next to Williams, rookie guard Bennie Anderson, had never played in a regular-season NFL game. Anderson replaced Kipp Vickers, who started the game but was ineffective, in the second quarter.

"I'd have to see if there was anything we could do better," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of his line play.

"When Sammy Williams went down, Erik Williams came and battled under tough circumstances. Bennie Anderson played a good portion of the game, so we're going to have a good way to evaluate him and see how he held up."

Along with working in two new members, the line had to deal with an array of blitzes from a Cincinnati team that seemed to sense an upset in the making as the second half went on.

"They didn't show us anything we hadn't seen in practice," Anderson said. "They did a lot of different blitzes, but it was nothing we hadn't already seen in practice."

Said Billick: "When they can turn it loose, whether they bring extra people or not, that's tough on your offensive linemen. That's a defensive lineman's dream to be in that situation. So scramble around, make some plays out of it, and that is the way it's going to be if you get into a situation where you're behind and you're throwing for your life."

But the problems started much earlier than that for the Ravens.

Allen had 20 yards on 13 attempts in the first half, an average of 1.5 yards a carry. It was the continuation of a nonexistent running game that dates to the preseason when Jamal Lewis went down with a season-ending knee injury.

In the Ravens' two games, they have rushed 50 times for 118 yards.

"We have to sustain blocks," Flynn said. "When you look at the film, on the point of attack, we're doing well but we're letting guys get off. Instead of getting 5-, 6-, 7-yard gains, we're getting line of scrimmage, 2-yard gains."

A more effective running game would keep the defense more honest than the Bengals.

"We knew they were going to bring a lot of blitzes, and we hung in there," Flynn said. "We had Bennie come in and Erik come in, and Erik's been there about a week and a half.

"He played the whole game and battled his tail off. We need that. In the long run, it's going to help us. We're going to be all right. We just need to be more physical and aggressive."

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