Potent pass rush rendered ineffective


Against a weakened line, defensive unit registers no sacks, barely hits QB

Raiders 20, Ravens 12

December 15, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - The last time the Ravens were held without a sack before yesterday's 20-12 loss to the Oakland Raiders was just two games ago.

It was a fact lost on Ravens coach Brian Billick when he was asked that particular question at his post-game news conference.

"I don't know. You're the writer, so you look it up," Billick said.

It is understandable why Billick would not remember. Considering the amount of pressure the Ravens put on the Cincinnati Bengals last week (six sacks) and the San Francisco 49ers the week before (no sacks but countless pressures), getting after the quarterback did not look as though it would be much of a problem heading into the game.

But as it turned out, lack of pressure was the primary reason the defense failed to force any turnovers. The Raiders, playing with two backup offensive linemen, kept third-string quarterback Rick Mirer upright much of the game by using quick timing routes. Center Adam Treu and right guard Brad Badger started in place of Barret Robbins and Mo Collins, respectively.

"He was just in a rhythm," end Tony Weaver said. "He was hitting that third step and the ball was out. It's tough to get sacks like that. We just have to regroup."

Mirer was hit only a couple of times, a surprisingly low number for the Ravens considering the amount of empty backfield sets Oakland used in the first half. Mirer threw 20 times in the first half, completing nine.

Neither Peter Boulware nor Terrell Suggs hit Mirer the entire afternoon. Boulware and Suggs had two sacks each against the Bengals.

"That's on us, the pass rushers," Boulware said. "We didn't get to him. As pass rushers, you've got to get to the quarterback to help your team out. We didn't do it. These next couple of games, we've got to pick it up."

Mirer finished 16 of 35 for 186 yards with no interceptions.

"It all works together," Boulware said. "You get interceptions when you get pressure on the quarterback."

Stover's streak over at 21

Matt Stover's streak of 21 consecutive field goals ended shortly before halftime when his 50-yard kick fell short.

Stover's field goal could have closed the Raiders' lead to 17-9.

"I undercut it," said Stover, who had made two from 32 and 28 yards earlier. "Just didn't hit it good. It was plenty in my range. I hit a 54-yarder that way during pre-game. The wind was going that way; I just undercut it. It went about a yard short.

"I've got to get ready for my next kick and start a new string."

Further review no help

Ravens running back Chester Taylor did not hear a whistle, so he stretched the ball over the goal line for the two-point conversion only to find out the referees had ruled his forward momentum stopped.

Taylor rammed the middle of the Raiders' defense and eventually wiggled his arms in the end zone after a 13-yard Anthony Wright touchdown pass to Todd Heap that closed Oakland's lead to 17-12. The Ravens challenged the ruling, and although replays showed Taylor extending the ball over the line, the official said the replays were inconclusive.

"I got it over," Taylor said. "There is no way my knee was down, because people were trying to grab my legs. I just reached across the plane, and it was supposed to be good. We challenged it. We're on the road so ... "

Thomas' void

Playing in their first game without special teams ace Adalius Thomas (elbow, out for season), the Ravens allowed a 71-yard kickoff return by Doug Gabriel.

The play set up a 37-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal and a 10-3 lead midway through the first quarter.

"It's going to always be a question for us on special teams with AD down," linebacker Cornell Brown said. "Whenever something doesn't go right, there is going to be the question of what if AD was here? We can't think about that. We went out, made a mistake, but we came back and made up for it. We had a good return on punt [28 yards by Lamont Brightful] and played solid."

Flagging Reed

When the official threw his yellow flag on a fourth-down punt, it appeared as though the Raiders would be penalized for grabbing Ravens safety Ed Reed by the face mask and taking him down to prevent him from blocking the kick early in the third quarter.

Instead, Brightful fumbled away the ball to O.J. Santiago on the return, and the flag, originally called on the Ravens' Musa Smith for holding, was picked up.

"You'd think by now, the refs would be looking at film and watching that they are holding me," said Reed, who did draw a holding penalty on a block-punt attempt later. "But I told them they were holding me. Jokingly, he played with me about it. But he called it when he was supposed to call it."

Basic fact

Billick had a simple answer for the loss to the downtrodden, 10-loss Raiders. He also dismissed the idea of a third cross-country flight of the year making the Ravens tired.

"They were rested and fresh," Billick said. "It negated the fact that we had to come cross country. I didn't think we were emotionally down or physically down.

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