Breakdowns in pass protection throw Ravens' offense for a loss

Browns get seven sacks

Mulitalo's absence cited

October 22, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- What had been one of the strongest facets of the Ravens' offensive line contributed heavily to the team's 24-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns yesterday.

The Ravens (3-3) had allowed only four sacks heading into the Browns game, but gave up seven to a largely unheralded Cleveland defense.

Part of the problem was the absence of guard Edwin Mulitalo, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury. Kipp Vickers, who usually rotates in at right guard with Bennie Anderson, was forced to play the whole game in place of Mulitalo for the second straight week.

It also did not help that the Ravens' offense played from behind the entire game, which allowed Cleveland to come after quarterbacks Elvis Grbac and Randall Cunningham. Eventually, Grbac was knocked out of the game, leaving Cunningham to try to lead another furious comeback.

"Anytime you don't have a starting offensive lineman in, and the way we had to rotate it is not the way you prefer to do it, but that's the way it is for us," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

"Mulitalo will come back for us next week [against Jacksonville]. I don't think that's the whole problem, but anytime you lose a starter, you have to adjust."[Grbac] took a couple of hits that you'd like to not have on your quarterback."

Especially one that ended up with a fumble in Ravens' territory.

Browns linebacker Jamir Miller sacked and stripped Grbac at the Ravens' 43, and the fumble was recovered by end Greg Spires. Grbac left the game after that hit with a rib contusion, which occurred on a sack earlier in the third quarter when he fell on the ball.

It was the third time Grbac had been sacked in the game and the second straight week he had to leave a game early.

The Browns scored on the next play -- a 36-yard pass by Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan -- to go up 24-6 with 5:20 left in the third quarter.

"I won't know [about the sacks] until we get a chance to look at the film [today]," Anderson said. "We were just working hard trying to get the job done. Sometimes sacks happen."

They were not, however, happening against the Ravens before yesterday. Grbac had been sacked four times in his 175 pass attempts and Cunningham not at all in his 11 attempts.

Things started out well enough for the line, as the Ravens totaled 98 first-half rushing yards. But after the Browns scored touchdowns on back-to-back series in the third quarter, the team was relegated to passing nearly every down.

"I haven't seen too many problems," center Mike Flynn said. "We had some breakdowns there late in the game. We were down and had to throw the ball a lot. They had an opportunity to get some good jumps on us. But we played pretty well. That was just one of those things. We'll move on, and once we get some guys back, we'll be better off for it.

"When you get down a lot of points, that clearly favors the defense. They can sit back, play pass coverage and get a bead on our protection. Maybe blitz a backer here or there, run some twists and get off on the [snap] count. With the crowd noise, it's hard to go on a lot of different counts. It's definitely an advantage to the defense."

Pressure from the Browns came from everywhere. Three of the team's four starting defensive linemen recorded sacks, as did a safety and a linebacker. End Keith McKenzie got two, and linebacker Miller recorded his sixth sack of the season.

It was not all the fault of the Ravens' offensive line, though. At times, Ravens receivers were having trouble getting open downfield, leaving the quarterbacks with little alternative.

"You got a third-and-long and nobody is open," Flynn said. "It's a lot better to take the sack than force the throw. They're a good defense."

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