Physical loss to Chiefs leaves mark

Ravens fall to 21st in defense after allowing 398 yards Monday

October 06, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A day after suffering one of their worst physical beatings in the Brian Billick era, the Ravens reported no serious injuries, other than the bruised egos on defense.

In Monday night's 27-24 upset loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the historically stingy Ravens allowed points on half of their 10 series and gave up 398 yards of total offense.

It marked the most ground surrendered in a regulation game by a Ray Lewis-led Ravens defense since Oct. 6, 2002 in Cleveland, a span of 32 games.

Once a group shooting for greatness, the Ravens have plummeted to 21st in the NFL in overall defense at the quarter mark of the season, joining the ranks of the Chicago Bears - the porous 2004 version and not the 1985 Monsters of the Midway.

"Are we all of a sudden not a good defense? I don't think so," coach Brian Billick said. "They manhandled us [Monday] night. That's going to happen. But we are certainly not going to panic here."

As much as the Chiefs delivered the blows physically, they also drew up a near-perfect game plan against the Ravens. Kansas City's blocking schemes always accounted for Lewis first, sending a guard or center in his direction every play.

Throughout the game, a miked-up and visibly frustrated Lewis complained how the Chiefs were double-teaming him. But ABC and ESPN analysts dissected the plays, showing that Kansas City used one blocker to take out Lewis.

As a result, Chiefs running back Priest Holmes amassed 125 yards rushing, the most against the Ravens in two seasons.

Billick said he isn't worried that other teams will use this game as a blueprint in how to attack the Ravens.

"Their offensive line out-muscled us and not many lines are able to do that," Billick said. "I can't remember the last time we had that on such a consistent basis."

The Ravens wore down as Kansas City methodically marched the length of the field at will. The Chiefs' five scoring drives averaged 11.6 plays and six minutes of possession.

Those series were sustained because the Ravens failed to stop Kansas City on eight of 16 third downs, which had been a strength of the Ravens. Of those eight conversions, the Chiefs made first downs on two third-and-nine situations, two third-and-10s and even a third-and-16.

"The most disturbing part was probably the third downs, them converting on a number of third-and-longs, keeping in mind it was a three-point game," Billick said. "It doesn't feel that way, but it could have had an impact on the game."

Kansas City quarterback Trent Green connected downfield on those third-and-longs because he rarely had to hurry to get rid of the ball. The Ravens managed a season-low one sack and hit Green only four other times on the Chiefs' 31 pass attempts.

The blame can be shared by the secondary, which has let receivers run free due to communication breakdowns.

The Ravens are giving up 222.8 yards passing a game, which is 47.5 yards off last season's per-game average with essentially the same defenders (cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter along with safeties Ed Reed and Will Demps).

But this unit has yet to jell since McAlister rejoined the team after skipping training camp in a contract dispute and Deion Sanders signed just before the season as the nickel back.

"They're still coming together as a unit ... it needs to come together very quickly here," Billick said. "Preseason's over. They've had four games. We've talked about ... the pieces coming together, so to speak, with the Chris and Deion situation. We have a lot of faith in that group. But it's a group that needs to step up and continue to get better."

If the Ravens (2-2) want to get back on track, their entire defense needs to step up. In the franchise's three playoff seasons, the defense never ranked lower than third.

The resiliency of the defense will be tested in Washington, where they play the Redskins in four days.

"We'll have to turn around very quickly and go back on the national stage, which is a good thing," Billick said. "Having been embarrassed [Monday] night, they'll want to get back and show that they're better than that."

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