Billick says Wright could remain Ravens' starter for rest of season

Boller's recovery time, team's playoff hopes key

NFL admits refs erred

November 25, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

On the day when the NFL admitted to an officiating blunder that helped the Ravens in their 44-41 comeback victory Sunday, team officials admitted to a potentially tough decision at quarterback.

Coach Brian Billick left open the possibility yesterday that Anthony Wright could remain the Ravens' starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

In his second start for the Ravens, Wright passed for 319 yards (a season high for the team) in rallying the team from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter. He threw four touchdown passes - of 13, 50, 24 and 9 yards to Marcus Robinson - as the Ravens scored 41 points after halftime.

Kyle Boller, the Ravens' rookie first-round pick, averaged 138.8 yards passing in starting the first nine games of the season before a leg injury sidelined him two weeks ago. His return could be as early as the Dec. 14 game in Oakland or as late as the Dec. 28 regular-season finale against Pittsburgh.

Although Boller is undoubtedly the Ravens' quarterback of the future, choosing the starter of the present depends on Boller's recovery and Wright's play over the next few weeks.

If Wright keeps the Ravens (6-5) in playoff contention and continues to do an above-average job, it could create a difficult decision on whether to go back to Boller.

The Ravens would prefer to get Boller irreplaceable playoff experience, but they have to consider how much rust he'll have coming back from a month layoff and how much another quarterback switch would affect the team that late in the season.

"There are an infinite number of possibilities based on Kyle's physical shape, how Anthony plays and where we're at as a team," Billick said. "Our commitment to Kyle is obvious. By the same token, if we continue and get on a roll and have a certain level of productivity ...

"We'll address that when it comes. You can't dismiss the performance of the players and where we're at, but there's a lot of football to be played. And Anthony is our leader right now and that's the horse we're going to ride."

If the Ravens fall out of the playoff hunt, there's no question they would start Boller when healthy. Less than two weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn quadriceps muscle, Boller was throwing during Sunday's pre-game warm-ups.

"I hope I'm back for the week of Oakland," Boller said. "That's my ultimate goal. [But] we're shooting for the Cleveland [Dec. 21] or Pittsburgh game. That'd be more realistic."

Meanwhile, the NFL said an officiating mistake gave the Ravens critical extra time in their fourth-quarter comeback win over the Seattle Seahawks.

NFL supervisor of officials Mike Pereira said the 40-second clock and the game clock should have been restarted after the officials waved off a penalty on Seattle (they erroneously flagged lineman Floyd Womack for failing to report as an eligible receiver) with 58 seconds left in regulation. The Ravens were trailing 41-38 at that point.

Since the clock wasn't started, the Ravens had 39 seconds left instead of four when they got the ball back on downs at the their 33-yard line. The Ravens ended up tying the game on Matt Stover's 40-yard field goal as the fourth quarter expired.

"It got a little confusing," Billick said. "We expected that the clock would then be restarted and were prepared to call the timeout. But as they were getting it done, the clock wasn't starting. I thought, let them run that and then we'll call time out."

Instead of the Ravens using their final timeout after second down, the clock stoppage allowed them to wait to call it after Shaun Alexander's third-down run with 44 seconds left.

The Ravens then stuffed Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for no gain on fourth-and-inches, and the clock stopped automatically for a change of possession. Getting the ball back with 39 seconds left, the Ravens drove 46 yards - 44 of which came on a pass-interference call - to tie the game.

"It's hard," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said at his news conference. "It's like losing a game on a Hail Mary deal. You're pretty sure your game is won and then it's lost. Not to mention the extenuating circumstances in the memos we received today [from the league]."

The game wasn't the only experience to go overtime for Wright. His wife, Nicole, was induced into labor at 11 p.m. Sunday and delivered their second child - a daughter named Trinity -a little before 9 last night.

For waiting until after the game to induce labor, Billick awarded the offensive game ball to Nicole.

"I told the players, `I don't want to hear about pain or hurt because you have no concept of it,' " Billick said.

The Ravens are preparing for a struggle themselves. With five games remaining, they are tied atop the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Between the two teams, they have three common remaining opponents (San Francisco, Cleveland and Pittsburgh) and go head-to-head on Dec. 7 at M&T Bank Stadium. The only difference is the Ravens play at Oakland (3-8) and the Bengals play at St. Louis (8-3).

Judging by Sunday's performance, the Ravens are ready to go the extra mile on this season's road to the playoffs.

"Is this the watershed moment for this young team?" Billick said. "We'll see when we look back on it based on what we do going forward. But it has that potential."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers (5-6) vs. Ravens (6-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 3

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