Ravens pull out a trick, but night isn't a treat

October 05, 2004|By Laura Vecsey

IT'S NOT a good omen for the Ravens that an NFL team can come into their house and rise from the dead. But that's what the Kansas City Chiefs did last night.

Maybe the Ravens take solace in the fact that they're missing Todd Heap and Travis Taylor, so the offense is on hold. Maybe there's plenty of time to correct the breakdowns that allowed the Ravens' defense to spend an eternity on the field last night, which in football time is 39:43.

Guess that's why prime time for the Ravens boiled down to a lot less than ABC slotted for Monday Night Football.

We're talking 10 seconds.

That's how much time the Ravens allotted last night to their most impressive bit of offensive work.

That's not prime time. That's not even a 30-second ad spot.

Even taking into consideration Jamal Lewis' speed capability, 10 seconds still isn't enough time for the Ravens' battering ram to blow his way downfield.

No, this was about trickery. A "big specialty play," in the words of coach Brian Billick.

That's what the Ravens relied on to score their first touchdown last night - one the Ravens needed to keep up with the suddenly sound-again Chiefs.

At the start of the second quarter, quarterback Kyle Boller pitched the ball to Lewis, who then turned and tossed the ball back to Boller.

A collective gasp went out across the Inner Harbor: Are we really seeing the Ravens executing a funky and fanciful bit of gimmickry?

Why, yes we were. It was a play the Ravens needed to pull even with the Chiefs, which is what happened when Boller slung a 57-yard touchdown pass to Randy Hymes.

It was also a play that got the Ravens' defense exactly 10 seconds of rest - another bad omen on a night when the Chiefs' offense was clicking like they might go 13-3 again. The Ravens needed the points but maybe not as much as the Ravens' defense needed a blow.

Boller's 57-yard touchdown pass by way of Lewis to Hymes was a burst of euphoria for the hometown crowd at M&T Bank Stadium.

Unfortunately, it was the kind of sugar high that doesn't last.

For the Ravens to be the Ravens, they can't rely on trickery, or the return work of rookie specialty man B.J. Sams, who ran a return back 58 yards. The special teams play just before the end of the half once again kept the Ravens from falling desperately behind the Chiefs, who outmuscled the Ravens on defense and ran the ball strong up the middle to the tune of 178 rushing yards.

The Ravens led exactly once: at 3-0, thanks to a 50-yard field goal.

Otherwise, the Ravens were in catch-up mode, and catch-up is not a game plan in which the Ravens can maximize their strengths.

This begs the question why Lewis wasn't given the ball four consecutive times at the start of the game. It worked against the Steelers. It worked against Cincinnati. Last time we looked, those were the two Ravens wins.

"At the start of the third quarter, I said we have to start to run the football, and that's what we did," Lewis said.

"We didn't use our offensive line like we could. We didn't go out and set the tempo."

That's why, after the Ravens' 27-24 loss last night, we are left to offer the following public service announcement for all confused fans of the National Football League:

Do not adjust your TV sets. Do not call the Missing Persons Bureau.

That may not have looked like the Ravens last night. That definitely did not resemble a 2-1 team that would like the world to think it is a Super Bowl contender.

However, after careful review, we can confidently report that it was indeed the Ravens, right down to Kyle Boller wondering what the game tapes will reveal and figure out why the Chiefs "fired and attacked us."

For anyone who expected a rout by the surging Ravens over the faltering Chiefs and instead saw something far more alarming, here's one word of condolence: Sorry.

True, the M.O. for this AFC North squad is all about defense, with a heavy smattering of J. Lewis mixed in. That was what America expected to see last night, when the Ravens resumed their preening love affair with Monday Night Football.

The Ravens were 3-0 when the cameras and bright lights shined in Charm City.

But they morphed into something no one in the world could fathom: The spitting image of a mediocre team, which isn't strange if we were only talking about the offense.

But a porous defense, too?

Chiefs quarterback Trent Green finished with 21 completions on 31 attempts for 223 yards. The Chiefs owned the clock, possessing the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Holmes became the first running back to collect more than 100 yards on the Ravens this season.

Was this Monday night?

Were these the Ravens?

Looks can be deceiving - and painful.

Maybe the Super Bowl-contender Ravens will return in time for Philadelphia or New England or Indianapolis.

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