Early mistakes cost Ravens

Turnovers prove costly in Raiders' loss

team must regroup for Cleveland

December 15, 2003|By P.J. Martinez | P.J. Martinez,SunSpot Staff

In the aftermath of yesterday's 20-12 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Ravens coach Brian Billick has heard every theory possible to explain his team's disappointing defeat.

They didn't show up.

They're a different team on the road.

They can't win the big game.

Billick, however, has a simpler, less-cliched explanation.

"You can't go on the road and spot a team 10 points," he said at Monday's news conference. "Not in this league. No matter what their record is, no matter what the circumstance is. You just can't do it. And we did it."

The Ravens entered Sunday's game as 6 1/2-point favorites, but quickly found themselves playing the role of underdog.

On the third snap of the game, Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright was intercepted by Oakland cornerback Phillip Buchanon, who returned the ball to the Baltimore 1-yard line. One snap later, the Raiders took a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run by Zack Crockett.

The Ravens responded, marching 61 yards for a short field goal by Matt Stover, but they handed Oakland another scoring opportunity on the ensuing kickoff.

Finding a hole on the left sideline, Oakland kick returner Doug Gabriel rumbled 71 yards to the Ravens' 19-yard line. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 23-yard field goal three plays later to put the Raiders up 10-3.

Halfway through the opening quarter, the Raiders had 10 points on three yards of total offense.

"The interception and the kickoff return, that's 10 points right there," Billick said. "We've overcome that before, but this time we [didn't]."

That doesn't mean, however, that the Ravens didn't show up. The Ravens outgained Oakland 319 to 265. and averaged nearly five yards per rushing attempt. Travis Taylor and Todd Heap, both quiet in recent weeks, combined to catch 9 passes for 155 yards.

"You saw things that we have done well," Billick said, "We ran the ball well. We had some explosive plays down the field."

But the early miscues proved too costly. Despite scoring just 10 points in the final 52 minutes, the Raiders finished the game without a turnover and didn't allow a sack.

It was just the third time this season that the Ravens defense failed to force a turnover.

The Ravens were poised to take the lead in early in the fourth quarter, driving the Oakland 27 after a 31-yard completion from Wright to Heap and a 9-yard run by Lewis. On the next play, Wright was hit by Raiders linebacker Napoleon Harris as he turned to hand off ot Jamal Lewis. The ball squirted on to the turf and Oakland's Troy Brayton recovered to end the Baltimore threat.

"We had some opportunities," Billick said. "I was proud of the way we responded."

QB Update: Billick repeated Monday that Anthony Wright will remain the Ravens starting quarterback when the team faces Cleveland on Sunday at 1 p.m.

"We're at the point in the season right now where you can't just arbitrarily, particularly at [quarterback], move guys in and out," Billick said.

In five starts this season, Wright has 68 of 133 passes for 946 yards. He's thrown 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

"As well as he's done, we've got to remember where [Wright] is in the growth process," Billick said. "He's a pretty resilient, intelligent young man, and he'll take from this what he can."

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