Ravens home in on tepid offense

Team aims to refocus as 3-game homestand kicks off vs. Seahawks

November 23, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Changing his focus -- not diapers -- has to be quarterback Anthony Wright's mind-set as the Ravens open a critical three-game homestand.

Redirecting attention is the key for Wright and the Ravens today against the Seattle Seahawks at M&T Bank Stadium, where the quarterback must deal with the anxiety of his wife's longer-than-anticipated pregnancy, and his offense must deal with the pressure of producing touchdowns rather than turnovers.

Wright and his wife, Nicole, are expecting their second child, a situation that coach Brian Billick joked was poorly game-planned. The due date was Wednesday, which means the birth could come at any time.

In his second start filling in for the injured Kyle Boller, Wright understands he has to stay focused on the Ravens, for whom a victory is equally overdue.

"It's tough," said Wright, who will snap rubber bands on his right wrist occasionally as a reminder of his wife. "I understand what I have to do and she understands what I have to do. She's going to work with me. Everything is going to be good."

The Ravens (5-5) and the Seahawks (7-3) stand atop their divisions, but find themselves going in different situations.

After losing two straight games on the road, the Ravens have fallen into a tie with Cincinnati for first place in the AFC North but are technically behind the Bengals since they lost to them a month ago.

To keep control of their division, the Ravens have to control their home turf, where they are 3-1 this season.

"Every game in the last six is a must-win situation," center Mike Flynn said. "The way things are going now it looks like we're going to have to win the division to get to the playoffs. So, 8-8 is not going to get it done. Fortunately for us, four of the last six are at home. There are no excuses."

Excuses have recently overshadowed execution on offense.

In the 68 1/2 minutes they have had the ball the past two games, the Ravens have committed 14 penalties and 10 turnovers. That's an average of one mistake every three minutes.

"Shooting ourselves in the foot has been our biggest problem," Wright said. "If we just stay onside and play basic football, we'll be fine."

Those turnovers have led to 26 of the 42 points scored against the Ravens in the past two games. Over that span, the offense has produced 28 points.

The Ravens haven't scored a touchdown in 97 minutes, 31 seconds. It has been 22 possessions since they last crossed the goal line -- a 1-yard catch by offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.

"The antenna has to be all the way up," said running back Jamal Lewis, the league's leading rusher. "We have to really concentrate on playing at our caliber the next six weeks. It all starts against Seattle. We'll put it all together."

The Ravens realize giving the ball up essentially gives the game away.

When the Ravens turn the ball over two or fewer times, they are 37-13 (.740) in five seasons under Billick. When they turn the ball over more than twice, they are 5-19 (.208).

"It seems like a simple equation," Flynn said. "If you look at our history, it's pretty much true. Run the ball, play good defense and don't turn the ball over and we seem to win. Sometimes it's ugly and sometimes it's pretty, but we win.

"That's the biggest disappointment for the last two weeks. It wasn't getting beat or the physical mistakes. It was the turnovers and the penalties in the red zone. That's why as an offensive unit we're frustrated. We're really stressing the turnover angle and to just be poised when we get down to the red zone and have to deal with pressure."

The Seahawks also understand the importance of turnovers.

Seattle, which has the NFC's third-best turnover ratio, has committed 10 of its 14 turnovers on the road. That explains why the Seahawks are 1-3 on the road and 6-0 at home.

"People are talking a lot about the road thing," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "I don't think it was the stadium, the fact that we were away from home or that we are flying. We made mistakes. We didn't get it done."

Getting it done is an understatement for the Ravens' defense.

Despite being put in tough situations by the offense, the defense has not surrendered a touchdown in 120 minutes, 40 seconds. The Ravens' past two opponents -- St. Louis and Miami -- have combined for 388 yards of total offense and 3.1 yards per play.

"The thing we need to guard against is getting frustrated," linebacker Peter Boulware said. "As a leader on the defense, that's one thing I'm going to try to instill in our guys."

If the Ravens can't deliver over the next three weeks at home, they may no longer find themselves on the road to the playoffs.

"Every game from here on out is going to be big for us," Boulware said. "We haven't left much room for error. So we have to be serious and we have to be focused."

Ravens today

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks (7-3) vs. Ravens (5-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3Inside

Scouting report, rosters, statistics and more. [Page 14e]

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