Rising from 0-2? It's been done

Billick embraces challenge of joining few NFL teams to have overcome sorry starts

Ravens & Nfl

September 21, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

In a twisted way, Ravens coach Brian Billick is viewing the predicament his team is in - and the overwhelming league history that dictates this season will be nothing special - an unexpected, but not wholly dreaded, challenge.

Since 1990, only 17 of the 121 teams that have lost their first two games have made the playoffs, or roughly 14 percent. Granted, the Ravens, with three former Defensive Player of the Year award winners (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Deion Sanders) and a former 2,000-yard rusher in Jamal Lewis, figure to be more talented than the vast majority of those teams, but that has not been evident on the field yet, especially in Sunday's 25-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens failed to record a first down in the first half, allowed Anthony Wright to be sacked six times and committed 10 penalties.

"It is going to be hard, but I am excited about the challenge of it all." Billick said. "That's what energizes me right now; How are we going to make this right? How is this going to work? How do I get these guys back on track?

"And when you"re [coaching], at a certain period of time, it's great to have these challenges. But would I rather be 2-0 and not have the challenge? Oh yeah. My life would be a whole lot easier, particularly with the extra week off. But I am going to embrace the challenge personally, and I think the players will, too."

The last team to overcome a 0-2 deficit and make the playoffs nearly wound up in the Super Bowl. The 2003 Philadelphia Eagles finished with 12 wins and the top record in the NFC before losing in the NFC championship game to the Carolina Panthers.

"You can go back and look at any team's record in history this 0-2 team or 1-3 teams or whatever, so many percentages made the playoffs, and this team came back and did this and did that and make whatever case you want to make." Billick said. "Ours would want to be an optimistic one, so we'll look at all the teams that started 0-2 and went on and did pretty well."

As for those teams, the 1993 Dallas Cowboys and 2001 New England Patriots are the only teams that came back to win the Super Bowl after dropping their first two games. The 1996 Patriots made the Super Bowl, but lost to the Green Bay Packers.

Two other teams,1998 New York Jets and 2003 Philadelphia Eagles, went on to play in conference championship games.

The teams on this list range from those that overachieved (1992 San Diego Chargers), to those that underachieved (1993 Pittsburgh Steelers) to those that rode a hot streak (1998 Buffalo Bills) but five teams stand out as having similarities to the Ravens:

The 1990 Eagles: If Billick wants to inspire his team, he need look no further than this mirror image. The Eagles, under coach Buddy Ryan, ran a high- pressure defense that intimidated quarterbacks and generally dominated its opponent, but its downfall came in its own offensive production. The Eagles ended the season on a three- game win streak, not allowing a touchdown in two of the games, but lost in the first round of the playoffs as the offense could muster only two field goals against the Washington Redskins. Ryan was fired at the end of the season.

The 1993 Cowboys: Sideshow distractions have this team linked with the Ravens. Emmitt Smith missed the first two games (both losses) over a contract dispute - the Ravens have their own contract issues with Jamal Lewis - but coach Jimmy Johnson finally got back his Pro Bowl running back before the third game. Smith went on to win the league Most Valuable Player award. Johnson left after the Cowboys routed Buffalo in the Super Bowl, finally parting ways with owner Jerry Jones.

The 1996 Patriots: Both have coaches with strong personalities that accept responsibility for their respective teams" performances. In his fourth and final season with New England, Bill Parcells got his team to rebound from heartbreaking road defeats in Miami and Buffalo to rout the Arizona Cardinals, 31-0, in the third game. New England won seven of its next eight, then allowed three field goals in its first two playoff games before succumbing to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

The 2002 Pittsburgh Steelers: Previously unmet expectations connect this team with the Ravens. The Steelers hosted and lost the conference championship game the year before against the Patriots, then started the next season off giving up 30 points in each of the first two games. The Ravens failed to make the playoffs last year after much Super Bowl talk during the preseason and have been outplayed in their first two games as well. Pittsburgh won its last three games that season but was knocked out in the divisional round of the playoffs by Tennessee.

Note The Ravens signed receiver Patrick Johnson yesterday. Johnson, a second-round pick in the 1998 draft, will begin his fourth stint with team. To make room for Johnson, the Ravens waived quarterback Derek Anderson. Anderson, the team's sixth-round choice, could be re-signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Guard Phil Hawkins and receiver Cole Magner were cut from the practice squad.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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