Now we know blame is not all yours, Kyle

Titans 25, Ravens 10

Ravens Gameday

September 19, 2005|By DAVID STEELE


-- Dear Kyle:

Please forgive us. It wasn't your fault after all.

You never lowered yourself to the point of defending yourself, and your coaches and teammates always stuck up for you publicly, saying that it was wrong to make one player, even the quarterback, the scapegoat for a bad offense. But we didn't buy it.

Until yesterday, that is.

All you did yesterday, Kyle, was stand on the sidelines in the Coliseum with a towel around your shoulders and a black boot on your right foot. That first half against the Titans, the one with no first downs and 23 offensive yards and three sacks and a lost fumble - none of that took place on your watch.

In the second half, the one with the same sieve of an offensive line, with the dropped passes and the one to a Titans linebacker that wasn't dropped and was run back for a touchdown, with the possession that got shoved toward the wrong end zone and ended in a blocked punt and a safety - that wasn't you, either, Kyle.

That was a different quarterback getting repeatedly pounded into the turf, mishandling snaps, watching his premier running back get drilled behind the line of scrimmage, trying to throw with hands in his face and helmets in his chest, flinging long to avoid big losses, firing short because there was no time for anything else and having completions wiped out by penalties on his overmatched offensive line.

And, of course, falling behind big again, and hustling to get into the end zone in the waning minutes. The Ravens might be winless and bringing up the rear in the division already, but they lead the NFL in late touchdowns that make the final score less indicative of the actual game.

That's been you plenty of times, Kyle, in wins and losses, convincing everybody that you were what separated the Ravens from glory. But it wasn't yesterday.

We're letting you off the hook, Kyle. But is it presumptuous to say "we"? This surely doesn't speak for everybody, but for those for whom it doesn't speak, why not? What still convinces those people that Kyle Boller is the problem?

Anthony Wright was at the controls yesterday, and the Ravens' offense still stunk. Two weeks into the regular season, it still looked as if the players just began training camp last week instead of seven weeks ago.

You got no satisfaction or vindication out of it, Kyle, we know. As you dressed in your locker after the so-called "game," you looked as pained as everyone else in there, including the guy filling in for you, Wright, who was in the next locker. It wasn't the toe that gave you that expression and slumped your shoulders, anyone could tell.

Wright must know how you feel, Kyle, because yesterday wasn't his fault, either. Like you have before, he did what quarterbacks do; he stood up and refused to point fingers anywhere but back at himself.

"I'm gonna take my part," Wright said. "Whatever is said, is said, and then we just move on."

He was the one who tripped twice while dropping back, the one who had a snap shoot through his palms and the one who tried to force a fourth-quarter pass to Mark Clayton with two defenders nearby and watched it go back in the other direction. But he also was the one throwing while backpedaling, ducking under and around rushers and eating sod - the way you've done so often, Kyle.

Wright also faced second-and-longs and third-and-longs all day, too, way more often than even you have, Kyle. The Ravens tried to "let the horse run," as Jamal Lewis had asked, and found out that the horse wasn't hitched to anything, like a set of blockers.

Wright was no innocent victim yesterday, but he was close. You, Kyle, were never wholly blameless either, but now, in hindsight, you look more like an innocent victim than you ever had. Those who rejoiced at your injury-forced departure - either out loud at the Colts game or quietly later - have learned an old lesson: It's convenient and fun to label the quarterback, but that doesn't make it right.

After previous bad losses, coach Brian Billick has said what he said yesterday, that he "couldn't begin to isolate any one person or any one group" for blame. It never sounded as plausible before. The breakdowns rolled through every unit, and they neither started nor ended at quarterback.

If anything, the buck stops where it should, and where it always has. The picking at you, Kyle, has always been a thinly veiled jab at Billick anyway. Developing a quarterback now seems to be the least of the coach's problems. For all the upheaval on offense in the offseason, the unit is going backward in every way.

As upset and at a loss after a game as he ever has been, Billick also bristled at the mental mistakes and lack of discipline, and on those, there is no place else to point fingers.

We can't point them all at you anymore, Kyle. We have seen the error of our ways - and the errors of your team's ways.

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