Billick not wavering in his support of Boller

Ravens coach says QB needs to play better, will play better

October 12, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Brian Billick once again backed Kyle Boller at yesterday's news conference, striking a more confident pose than his quarterback did in Sunday night's 17-10 victory over the Washington Redskins.

"Kyle needs to play better. Kyle will play better," coach Brian Billick said. "Kyle is our starting quarterback."

The support for the second-year starter came at a time when he reached the Ravens' record book for all the wrong reasons.

His 81 yards passing represents the third-worst quarterback performance in franchise history and marks the fifth time in 14 starts that he failed to crack 100 yards. Nine of Boller's 18 passes went to Ravens and three went to the Redskins, who converted two of the interceptions into 10 points.

Now, with All-Pro running back Jamal Lewis beginning a two-game suspension after this week's bye, the Ravens (3-2) might have to win because of Boller rather than in spite of him.

"Do you really want to bail on the guy? Do you really want to not support him?" Billick said. "He's a talented young man that's got a great future in this game, who's got some things going on around him that you have to take into account. I'm not going to make an excuse for him."

The Ravens are expected to get back two starters on offense after the bye, with receiver Travis Taylor (groin) and center Mike Flynn (collarbone) both convinced they will return for the Oct. 24 game against the winless Buffalo Bills.

Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap (ankle) is questionable to come back for that game.

Those additions should boost a passing attack that has ranked at the bottom of the NFL for two straight weeks. The Ravens are averaging 116.4 yards a game, which is 29 yards fewer than the next-worst team, the Atlanta Falcons.

If the Ravens were to make a change at quarterback, the only alternative is Kordell Stewart, who struggled mightily in the preseason.

Anthony Wright, who started for the Ravens in the playoffs last season, is on the physically unable to perform list. The plan is to activate him for the first game of November, a Week 9 game against Cleveland.

But neither is considered an option to replace Boller, according to Billick.

"I get paid to make these decisions," Billick said. "I believe in this young man, and everyone else should as well."

In a division filled with young quarterbacks, the AFC North winner could be decided by which one progresses and which one regresses. After a couple of solid yet not spectacular games, Boller took a major step backward Sunday.

His accuracy was atrocious, overthrowing and underthrowing open receivers by several yards because he lapsed back to poor fundamentals. His decision-making was equally suspect, rushing several throws and bolting out of the pocket haphazardly.

But his inability to stretch defenses has been a season-long problem. He has completed two passes over 40 yards (a 57-yard flea flicker to Hymes and a 46-yard swing pass to Lewis).

"I think every quarterback is always worried about job security," said Boller, 23, the 30th-rated passer in the league. "All I can do is prepare myself and go out there and do the best job that I can and everything will take care of itself."

The blame for a plodding offense can't solely be directed at Boller because it extends beyond his time here.

Sunday's win in Washington marked the 16th time - which amounts to a full season - that the Ravens were held without an offensive touchdown in 85 games under Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. That's an average of once every five games for the offense not to reach the end zone.

"Anybody that has a problem with the offense needs to take it up with me because I'm the one responsible," Billick said. "This is something that I live and breathe 24-7 and I always do what I think is in the best interest of this team whether it has to do with system, player or coach."

The pending question for the Ravens is when Heap will return.

The team's leading receiver for the past two seasons has been sidelined since spraining his ankle in Week 2. He will continue to receive treatment during the bye in an effort to come back in two weeks.

"My goal is to be ready for Buffalo," Heap said. "But I really can't say because I haven't ran on it. I'm trying to use as much time as possible to heal up. I'll know better next week."

The Ravens have failed to complete more than 11 passes in the three games without Heap. "It makes me sick sitting on the sideline not being able to help," he said.

The players are off during the bye and will reconvene Sunday, by which time the organization will have completely moved to its new Owings Mills practice complex.

The Ravens can only hope that their passing game will enjoy a similar fresh start.

"I've done some good things, I've done my fair share of things I need to work on," said Boller, who will spend his time off in California. "We'll continue each week to try to find ways to get that passing game going."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (3-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (0-4)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Oct. 24, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/ WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Boller vs. Boller

A comparison of Kyle Boller's nine starts as a rookie to his five starts this season:

2003 2004

5-4 WON - LOST 3-2

.518 COMP. PCT. .569

140 YARDS PER GAME 130

7/9 TD/INT 2/5

62.4 RATING 61.3

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