Ravens head for shade after 2 spotlight games

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 17, Redskins 10

October 11, 2004|By JOHN EISENBERG

LANDOVER - A week ago this morning, the Ravens were looking forward to playing two straight prime-time games in which they could show the nation their stuff.

The first six quarters of the show went poorly, to say the least. The Chiefs gave them a physical beating last Monday night, and the Redskins had them by 10 points at halftime last night at FedEx Field.

The Ravens, it seemed, were not ready for prime-time players.

But just when their season was about to implode, they found their big-play touch and staged a highly unorthodox rally to beat the Redskins.

They didn't come close to putting on the show they wanted during the two games, and, in fact, probably convinced most fans across the country that they aren't a serious Super Bowl contender. How could they be with an offense so inept?

But hey, they did split the two games with a comeback win that was especially sweet, silencing more than 90,000 fans rooting against them.

This was a game to survive, period; a game in which the Ravens had to cook up a way to win because their offense was incapable of driving the ball the length of the field.

They could have played all night and not put together an 80-yard scoring drive.

But survival came with a pair of touchdowns produced by the defense and special teams within 132 seconds in third quarter.

That wasn't much, but it was enough to take down a Redskins team that is similarly imbalanced - solid defense, tepid offense - and now 1-4 under Joe Gibbs II, certifiably going nowhere.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are 3-2 heading into a bye week that is desperately needed.

They could stand a little obscurity after two shaky weeks in the spotlight.

Time to quiet down, get injured tight end Todd Heap back, start over with quarterback Kyle Boller and try to inject some life into the passing game, which is only getting worse.

Even in victory last night, the Ravens surely know they aren't going to win many more games with such a blueprint.

Yes, their defense and special teams took them all the way to a Super Bowl title four years ago, but anyone still sticking with that comparison is delusional.

For starters, the Super Bowl defense was better than this year's, although this year's played extremely well last night after getting embarrassed by Kansas City.

And if you thought the Super Bowl team's offense was problematic, you haven't seen this one.

During the first three quarters last night, the Ravens' longest drive was 24 yards.

During the second quarter, three straight possessions ended with interceptions.

In the end, the offense totaled 15 first downs and 232 yards - losing totals against most teams.

Boller certainly deserved his share of the blame; he took a backward step last night, throwing those three interceptions and showing no big-play capability.

The Ravens can "hear no evil, see no evil" as much as they want with him, but they, too, are deluding themselves if they think they don't have a problem.

If Boller doesn't start making some plays, the pressure to replace him is going to start getting heavier.

True, the offense had other problems last night. The pass protection was overwhelmed at times. The play-calling was as curious as ever: Lewis rushed for 116 yards, but only twice in the first half did he carry the ball on consecutive plays.

And in Boller's defense, it almost seemed he had no help at times.

On one of his interceptions, his throw hit backup tight end Daniel Wilcox in the chest, but the ball bounced away and the Redskins' Fred Smoot intercepted.

That's not an interception if Heap is playing.

And with receiver Travis Taylor still sidelined with a groin injury, Boller's only deep threat was Clarence Moore, a rookie from Northern Arizona. He didn't exactly strike fear in the Redskins' hearts. Not that Taylor would, either.

Fortunately for the Ravens, their defense was even more unforgiving than Washington's, allowing the Redskins nine first downs and 107 yards of offense on 58 plays.

The Redskins, too, were incapable of driving the ball the length of the field.

The Battle of the Beltways was aptly named this year, with both teams moving forward at no better than a crawl.

Such tight games are always decided by big plays, big moments, the big mistake. The Ravens delivered.

First, safety Ed Reed stripped Washington quarterback Mark Brunell of the ball, then picked it up and ran 22 yards for a touchdown. Then, B.J. Sams caught a punt, faked a reverse handoff to Deion Sanders and ran 78 yards for another touchdown.

That gave the Ravens the lead, and with their defense dominating, also gave them the game.

Was it the strutting show they envisioned putting on for the national TV audience? No. But given where they were at halftime, they were happy just to win.

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