Fewer penalties, more winning

Discipline, confidence are formula to cut down on flags, Wright says

Ravens notebook

December 09, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright had a quick answer as to why his team was penalized only twice in Sunday's 31-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Its just discipline," Wright said. "We are playing a lot better and with more confidence. That's the biggest thing."

The Ravens have been flagged only six times in the past two games, their lowest back-to-back total of the season. Before that, the Ravens had reached double-digit penalties in the three previous games.

When the Ravens are penalized less than their opponents, they are 3-0 this season. The Ravens also have won the turnover battle in those games, including a plus-2 margin against the Bengals.

Discipline in one aspect of the game seems to lead to discipline in another for the Ravens.

"You coach to perfection," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You want no turnovers, but you can't [expect that]. By the same token, you can't walk in front of your players and say, `Guys, we are not going to turn the ball over the rest of the season.' They are going to look at you and go, `Does this guy know what he is talking about?' "

The Ravens forced five Cincinnati turnovers Sunday, including four from quarterback Jon Kitna (two interceptions, two fumbles).

Wright, though was intercepted twice, and Jamal Lewis lost a fumble for the fifth time this season.

"Nobody wants to have those turnovers," Billick said. "But anytime you can end up 2-plus or 3-plus, you are going to win the game. Fortunately we were able to keep that ratio."

No pick, no share of first

Safety Ed Reed had a chance to move back into a first-place tie for the AFC interception lead with Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, but the opportunity, as well as the ball, was ripped away by Peter Warrick.

Reed nearly intercepted Kitna on a 3-yard pass to Warrick midway through the third quarter, but Warrick wrestled the ball away at the Bengals' 23. The Ravens were up 17-13 at the time.

"I had the ball; he took it out of my hand," Reed said. "It was a great play by Peter Warrick."

Reed also dropped a would-be interception off a deflection by Ray Lewis later in the game. In the first game against Cincinnati, Reed had another possible interception that deflected off his hands and to Chad Johnson for an 82-yard touchdown.

"I always have a good game and bad game all in one playing against the Bengals," Reed said.

Level playing field

With the heated, artificial field at M&T Bank Stadium, players said the turf was in great shape throughout the game.

In years past, the Ravens have had to re-sod their formerly grass field, which would come up in chunks during games because of lack of sunlight this time of year.

"It was fine," said linebacker Peter Boulware. "Usually during this time last year with the grass, it's pretty tough. But with that surface out there, it was great."

Help from the audience

With their season in disarray, the Oakland Raiders (3-10) are undoubtedly hearing suggestions from all over on how to turn things around, something with which Billick said he can empathize.

"I've had sports psychologists," Billick said. "I've had horoscopes. I had a biorhythm guy come to me in absolute earnest and tell me I could not play any of the three quarterbacks I had on the roster.

"I thanked him very much, took a shot, played the kid, and I think he threw for 400 yards. There are a lot of people that want to offer help. Until you have been in this environment, there is only one way to do it - stick together and fight through it. I am sure that is what they are doing."

End zone

Defensive end Nate Bolling was at the Ravens' complex yesterday and might be signed to the practice squad. Bolling was one of the final cuts of the preseason. ... Tight end Todd Heap will join Baltimore-area military families via satellite to connect with troops overseas today. Kyle Boller and Ron Johnson will lead a toy drive to benefit the University of Maryland Hospital for Children from 6 to 8 tonight at Carrolltown Center in Eldersburg.

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