Thrown into things, Blake hurried

Last-minute replacement for QB Redman kept busy

Nfl Week 8

Steelers 31, Ravens 18

October 28, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Though he hadn't started a game in nearly two years, Ravens quarterback Jeff Blake declared himself physically fit after his team's 31-18 loss yesterday to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite a 50-attempt, 298-yard performance, his arm as well as his body was free from pain. "I keep myself in good shape," said Blake, who completed 29 of those passes for one touchdown, but also had three interceptions.

For as good shape as Blake is in, even he probably could not have envisioned such a hefty workload once the Ravens delivered him the news yesterday morning that he would be starting in place of Chris Redman (out with numbness in his right leg).

And in his first start since directing the New Orleans Saints to a 7-3 record before suffering a season-ending foot injury in November 2000, Blake tried overcoming many barriers: a 25-point first-half deficit, a week in which he took no repetitions with the first team, a bumbling 13 penalties and a Steelers defense that lives to harass quarterbacks.

What Blake produced was a mixed bag - impressive throws combined with poor decisions that resulted in three interceptions.

Yet, for what Blake was asked to do under the circumstances, the Ravens left the game feeling he can indeed be the quarterback he was with the Saints if Redman stays out.

"That's tough to do when you put in a quarterback [who] has had minimal or no reps," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "I'm not making excuses for Jeff. That's the toughest thing you can ask a quarterback to do - to take none of the reps through the course of the week, all visual watching the starter, and then have to come in and execute effectively. It's tough, but it's got to be better because that what he's paid to do. But that's asking a lot of a quarterback."

The Ravens essentially also asked Blake to make one of the biggest comebacks in any NFL game this season. Two of Blake's interceptions came in a last-ditch effort to close Pittsburgh's 13-point advantage with under four minutes to play. "I was just trying to move the ball downfield because we were down so far," he said.

Before then, Blake led a 90-yard touchdown drive in which he took it into the end zone from 1 yard out to cut the Steelers' lead to 31-18 with 11 minutes left. He followed that with a 38-yard drive that ended with Jamal Lewis fumbling with a little under five minutes left.

"The guy was on right from the start," said receiver Travis Taylor, who led the team with seven receptions and 82 yards. "He's been in the league 10, 11 years, so he knows what it takes. He might not get that many reps in practice, but he's always ready to play."

Blake had no choice but to be ready. The Steelers scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, a stretch in which the Ravens' offense had the ball for two drives.

After that onslaught, Lewis was nothing more than an afterthought in the offense, rushing a season-low 13 times for 34 yards. Blake had seven fewer rushes but just 9 fewer yards.

"Since we got down so far so quick, we couldn't do our game plan. It was just pass, pass, pass," Blake said. "I couldn't damage them with Jamal like I wanted to. I couldn't do play-action, the roll-outs, the fakes, all the things we wanted to do to try and keep them off balance with my speed."

Even without his entire arsenal, Blake summed up what the offense accomplished under his leadership: "I think we moved the ball pretty well for a quarterback to come in and find out he was playing right before the game."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.