Bollinger wasn't big Jets burden

Young quarterback didn't turn ball over, but he wasn't helped by dropped passes

Week Four--Ravens 13, Jets 3


That the New York Jets' offense, missing its top two quarterbacks, performed miserably against the Ravens was hardly startling. What was a surprise, though, is who is likely to catch the heat for it when New York goes over the game tapes.

Not third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger, making his first start ever, according to New York coach Herman Edwards.

"Brooks for the most part did a good job. But he can't catch the ball for them. We have to find a way to move the ball," Edwards said after the Ravens' 13-3 win at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Jets had just 152 yards in offense and got their only points after the defense recovered a fumble, returning it to Baltimore's 1-yard line in the third quarter. Even then, they had to settle for a field goal.

"We had a young quarterback in there, and you have to make every catch, you have to make every block," Edwards added. "You can't put it on him because he needs your help. Maybe you're trying too hard and you drop balls."

Several Jets receivers failed to haul in catchable passes, including wide receiver Justin McCareins and tight end Doug Jolley.

"We didn't help him out very much," McCareins said. "I, myself, didn't help him out very much. But in terms of him taking charge out on the field, he did a good job and I'm proud of him."

Even the Ravens credited Bollinger, who had thrown just nine passes in three NFL seasons, with keeping his cool in the face of one of the league's toughest and more complex defenses.

"That young man over there stayed composed," said Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs. "He didn't get rattled at all. It never looked like he was bothered by our fronts. That right there shows promise."

Though Bollinger was sacked five times, he didn't turn the ball over. He had been pressed into service because of injuries last week to starter Chad Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler. The Jets have signed 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde, who watched from the sideline.

Edwards said he never considered replacing Bollinger yesterday, but the coach hasn't made up his mind about whom to start next week when the 1-3 Jets play at home against Tampa Bay.

Although his coach and teammates absolved Bollinger for yesterday's offensive flop, he felt otherwise, saying he let them down.

"It's tough. I want to do well for these guys, and I finally got an opportunity where I knew that they were counting on me and it was my time to make a contribution and I didn't do enough for us to win," Bollinger said.

The 25-year-old quarterback's most costly miscue came on the Jets' best opportunity to score.

After New York linebacker Victor Hobson returned Ravens running back Jamal Lewis' fumble 43 yards to the Ravens' 1-yard line, Jets runner Curtis Martin was stuffed on first down.

On second down, Bollinger ran a bootleg to the left - perhaps a questionable call - looking for Jolley. When the tight end failed to break loose, Bollinger made an ill-advised dash for the corner of the end zone and ran out of bounds for about a yard-and-a-half loss instead of throwing the ball away. Martin failed to score on another run, and New York kicked a field goal to draw to within 6-3 early in the third quarter. The Jets never seriously threatened the Ravens' end zone again.

However, New York's offensive problems went far beyond one mistake by an inexperienced quarterback. Martin, the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history, was held to 30 yards on 13 attempts.

Testaverde, in his second stint with the Jets, is trying to keep a low profile.

"My ambition has been to come back and help this team win football games, whatever way that is, whether it's out there on the field or helping Brooks behind the scenes," Testaverde said.

Bollinger, meanwhile, is left wondering whether he missed his opportunity to come out of the shadows as a veteran signal-caller waits in the wings.

"That's something you're always going to have to deal with in this league," he said. "In my situation, I just have to worry about me. Whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. But today, I didn't do that well enough."

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