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

October 05, 2004|By Laura Vecsey

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.

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

No, this was about trickery. That's what the Ravens had to rely on to score their first touchdown last night - one the Ravens needed to keep up with the suddenly sound again Kansas City Chiefs.

It was the start of the second quarter when quarterback Kyle Boller pitched the ball to Lewis, who turned and tossed an overhand throw about 10 yards 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.

With the Kansas City secondary cheating in, expecting a Lewis run - and who in their right mind wouldn't? - Randy Hymes was all alone and streaking toward the end zone.

That's when Boller, the California slinger whose greatest NFL tryout trick was showing off his arm strength, then did what he likes to do best - when he's not scrambling out of broken pass plays. Boller heaved a perfect strike downfield.

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 a B.J. Sams, who ran a return back 58 yards just before the half to again keep the Ravens from falling desperately behind the Chiefs.

Catch-up is not a game the Ravens can play and expect to 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 this season.

Instead, we were left in the closing moments of the Ravens' 27-24 loss to offer the following public service announcement for all confused fans of the NFL.

Do not adjust your TV sets. Do not book appointments at your local optometrist. 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 wants everyone to think of it as a Super Bowl contender - since they do, or did.

However, after careful review, we can confidently report that it was indeed the Ravens.

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 Jamal 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-and-0 when the cameras and bright lights shined in Charm City - and that's not counting the Super Bowl win that solidified the Ravens' reputation as a robustly egotistical band of spotlight lovers.

It was all set up last night for vintage Ravens, the Ravens the world has come to know, if not exactly love.

If they relish their Monday night cameos, the Ravens were ready to supply a hot-dogging good time.

Ray Lewis came out of the tunnel, demanding and commanding the spotlight - at least in his pre-game hoedown and before Priest Holmes started amassing Jamal Lewis-type yards.

Deion Sanders attracted major air time - if only to announce that the 37-year-old nickel back would miss last night's game with a sore hamstring.

Jamal Lewis, expected to plead guilty to felony drug charges this week, was coming off a 186-yard game against Cincinnati, was facing a Chiefs team that had given up an average of 150 yards in three staggering losses.

But once the eye-in-the-sky camera was rolling all over M&T Bank Stadium field, it was dizzying.

It was tough to keep up with all those Priest Holmes yards. It was almost impossible to account for all those quick-draw catches by tight ends Jason Dunn, Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Chris Horn.

The Ravens 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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