Ravens were own worst enemy

now their best hope is to rebuild

Titans 25, Ravens 10

Ravens Gameday

September 19, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

NASHVILLE, TENN. -- Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller should go in a room, turn out the lights, break out a hammer and smack the heck out of his turf toe, and call it a season.

Backup quarterback Kordell Stewart has to be troubled, too. A week ago, he was sitting on the couch hoping to get back in the league. Now, he is one snap away from losing his life. It might be time to retire.

The Ravens are a comedy of errors now, almost to the point where the team has become a travesty. So bad, in fact, that head coach Brian Billick's voice trembled twice during his post-game news conference.

Right now -- and let's skip the past Pro Bowl accolades -- the Ravens are one of the worst teams in the league because of penalties, dropped balls, missed defensive assignments, inept special teams play and one of the worst offensive lines in the league.

"The errors, the mistakes, the things that will get you beat. You all saw it. You will comment on it," Billick said after a 25-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, his voice wavering as he regained control. "We've got a lot of work to do -- plain and simple. Analyzing, critiquing and going back to work are the only answers I have when you play like that."

You can point your finger at Billick. It's his team. The Ravens are in disarray and lack discipline. They were penalized 10 times for 73 yards. Several times they couldn't get players on and off the field for special teams, once leading to a blocked punt in the end zone late in the game. Right now, the low number of practices and laid-back approach of Camp Cream Puff has cost this team two games because it isn't polished, and it lacks a sense of urgency.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome deserves blame, too. In the offseason, the Ravens went for style over substance with the addition of receivers Derrick Mason and rookie Mark Clayton, but they didn't do much to upgrade the offensive line.

Newsome couldn't see that right offensive tackle Orlando Brown had slowed down, and he didn't have enough guts to re-sign center Casey Rabach and cut current starter Mike Flynn, whom they overpaid last March when they re-signed him.

And the bad news is that this group isn't going to get any better. This isn't Major League Baseball where you can go down on the farm and bring in a prospect.

The Ravens are stuck with two guys on the right side of the offensive line who are basically statues, a center that can only pass-block, and a left guard who can only run-block. The Ravens offensive line spent so much time on the ground yesterday you thought they were looking for gophers.

Who are the Ravens going to bring in next, Ethan Brooks? Right now, former right guard Bennie Anderson would be an upgrade.

This group is so bad, so horrendous, that Billick had to use Todd Heap, one of the best tight ends in the league and a top weapon, as a pass blocker to help slow the rush.

Poor Anthony Wright. The Ravens starting quarterback was sacked six times and hurried many others. When he wasn't being harassed, he stumbled, fumbled and bumbled his way through the game.

What gives with Baltimore quarterbacks? Why can't we find one guy, just one, who can stand up? Even without alcohol consumption, they couldn't pass a sobriety test.

The entire offense is a mess. The Ravens bring in offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel during the offseason. These are supposedly two of the better offensive minds in the game to go along with Baltimore's own offensive guru, Billick.

Here's what they gave us yesterday: Zero first downs and 10 yards rushing in the first half; a scheme that can't deal with blitzes (screen passes anyone?), a running game that netted only 14 rushing yards against a team that gave up 161 yards to Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Willie Parker last week, and a dumb hitch play from the Tennessee 10-yard line that had no chance of working because there was not enough field available to deceive the defense.

They're struggling on the other side of the ball as well. In the first half, the Titans had an answer for a lot of the Ravens' blitzes. Sometimes, the Ravens jump around so much, they don't even know where to line up.

Faced with first-and-10 at the Ravens' 41 with eight minutes left in the second quarter, the Titans put two receivers on the left and two on the right.

Ooops.

The Ravens forgot to cover fullback Troy Fleming, who was split far left, and he caught an 18-yard pass. Another time in the first half, receiver Drew Bennett ran alone down the right sideline, but Titans quarterback Steve McNair didn't see him.

There were other Keystone moments. Twice the Ravens either had trouble getting players on or off the field for special teams. They called two timeouts in the first six minutes of the third quarter. It's unusual for a defensive lineman to be called for holding on a running play, and even more bizarre for a player to be called for a face mask when his team is returning the kickoff.

Guess what? It happened to the Ravens.

Running back Jamal Lewis can't catch, and then there is the Clarence Moore factor. What would a game be without him dropping a pass or two or three or four? Please, cut him. Now.

"This bye week didn't look to be in a good spot when it first came out, but obviously right now it's what we need because we have a great deal of work this next two weeks," Billick said.

That's the understatement of the 2005 season. Rebuilding Rome took less work.

Recently, Billick has told fans when and when not to cheer, whom to cheer for and lectured the media on how to do their jobs. He is one of the few coaches in the league that writes a column, titled "The Source," but maybe he should change it to "The Answer Man."

He has to find some. A lot of them. It's time for Billick to get back to doing what he does best, and that's coaching football.

Yesterday, the Ravens not only looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL, but a team spinning out of control.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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