Searcy's return may be delayed


Expecting to start vs. Jags, tackle is still questionable

better news for Mulitalo

Pro Football

October 23, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Offensive tackle Leon Searcy's debut as a Raven may be later than anticipated.

Searcy was shooting for Sunday's game against Jacksonville after practicing last week for the first time since tearing his left triceps tendon early in the preseason.

But coach Brian Billick said Searcy, who will likely move back into the starting lineup when he is ready to play, is questionable at best for the Jaguars game. The news is better for left guard Edwin Mulitalo, whose injured left knee may be well enough for him to practice on later this week and play Sunday.

"I feel good," Mulitalo said. "Every day, my knee is getting better and better. We're just waiting on the surgery to heal. Watching the film [yesterday], the time clock in my body said I should be playing now."

The return of Mulitalo and Searcy is needed to bolster an offensive line that allowed a season-high seven sacks Sunday in a 24-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Sammy Williams and Erik Williams have been rotating in place of Searcy, who worked with his teammates for the first time in months on Wednesday.

"You're talking about one of the best tackles in the game," Billick said of the impact of Searcy's presence. "It will eliminate the moving around we are having to do out of necessity. Leon is still a couple of weeks [away]. He did more last week. He'll do a little more this week, a little more next week. When he'll be back again, that's up to Leon and the doctors. He's progressing toward that. A more constant, less rotation offensive line will help us."

Mulitalo had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week, and has missed the past two games. Kipp Vickers, usually a right guard, started in place of Mulitalo against the Browns.

If Mulitalo and Searcy are able to play Sunday, the Ravens will have the offensive line that they envisioned for the season on the field for the first time.

"Protection has been a problem for us in terms of turnovers," Billick said. "Protection up until [Sunday] had been excellent. But that protection had a direct hand in the turnovers, interceptions and fumbles."

Third quarter, third degree

The third quarter has proved to be the worst for the Ravens.

The team has been outscored 48-20 overall in that period, 35-3 in the three losses. Billick attributes the problems to the five turnovers and blocked punt the team has allowed in the third quarter.

"If you want to summarize into a quarter, then don't turn it over and we've got a decent chance," Billick said. "That is what is frustrating. The game Sunday at the half, even though we were down, we had control of the game pretty much. Two interceptions happened in the first half. Then, all of a sudden, things happen, some out of your control. Some questionable things. That is the way it works."

Pumping for volume

Billick made his usual plea for the fans at PSINet Stadium to generate much crowd noise against the Jaguars during Sunday's game.

He said it is especially important because Jacksonville has a tendency to change plays at the line, though he did acknowledge the fans might be a little miffed at the Ravens' record and the back-to-back losses on the road.

"We're going to need the fans on Sunday. They were phenomenal the last time we were home about 10 months ago, a huge impact on why we beat Tennessee. The fans will remember the impact on our ability to beat Jacksonville here last year," said Billick, referring to the Ravens' dramatic rally from a 17-0 deficit to win, 39-36, in Week 2.

"I think it was three or four times they affected the snap count. I know there is frustration with the fans, just like with us. But I hope they come out on Sunday and be the impact they were on the latter part of last year."

Counting the mistakes

The Ravens are minus-7 in turnover ratio, 28th in the NFL. Last year, the Ravens led the NFL with a plus-23 ratio. Turning the ball over is half the reason, Billick said, that the team already has three losses. The other problem comes in the big plays the defense has been giving up recently. The Ravens gave up touchdown passes of 28 and 36 yards against the Browns.

"I sit here with the No. 1-ranked defense in the league statistically and the No. 4-ranked offense," Billick said. "No team has earned more first downs, no team has given up fewer first downs, no team is better at stopping teams on third downs. We've got balance. One team has run the ball more than we have, yet we also throw the ball. Yet here we sit at 3-3.

"In yesterday's game, we had 21 first downs, they had 10. We had 40 percent third-down conversion ratio, they had zero. We ran the ball for over 100 yards on less than 30 carries, and they had less than 100 yards on over 30 carries. We had 80 plays, they had 50. How does that happen? The same way you're ranked No. 1 defensively and No. 4 offensively and you're sitting here 3-3 - turnovers and big plays."

End zone

Billick said he was optimistic about having tight end Todd Heap back for Sunday. Heap sprained an ankle against the Cincinnati Bengals and has been inactive the past four games. ... The Ravens' all-time record in October is 7-16.

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