With Ravens' limited arsenal, don't expect a lot of fireworks

On the Ravens

October 03, 2005

There was 1 minute, 21 seconds left in the first half, the Ravens had a 6-0 lead and the ball at their 24-yard line with one timeout remaining. Instead of trying to get the ball downfield with passes for another field-goal opportunity, coach Brian Billick ran two more running plays as time expired.

He was booed as his team ran off the field at halftime.

"That was the first time I was ever booed coming off the field at the half," Billick said.

It was undeserved, and actually, his team stayed with the exact strategy needed in the Ravens' 13-3 win over the New York Jets yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium.

The conservative, run-oriented style wasn't entertaining. It was downright boring. You actually had time to wash your car, balance your checkbook, watch paint dry and order pizza in between Ravens big plays, but that's OK.

Who cares?

The Ravens (1-2) won because they pounded the Jets (1-3) with running backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor a combined 40 times for 113 yards. They kept the ball out of the Jets' hands, but just as important, they cut down on high-risk plays from their own inept, error-prone offense.

Perfect. Good stuff.

The Ravens don't have an offensive identity this season, and it's unlikely they'll have one because they have too many weaknesses on the offensive line and at quarterback. They aren't a running team and they certainly aren't a passing team.

Their offensive motto in 2005 should be, "Whatever it takes."

What it took yesterday was self-control, a Ravens team that ended up with a 16-minute advantage in time of possession. Everyone knew the Jets would struggle with No. 3 quarterback Brooks Bollinger as the starter, but he had no clue about life and blitzes in the NFL.

He threw more passes to the water boys on both benches than to his receivers. When he did make nice throws, his receivers dropped several of them because they were in shock that the ball had reached its intended destination.

Bollinger completed only 14 of 28 passes for 149 yards and couldn't get the Jets into the Ravens' end zone.

So with the Jets having no threat at quarterback and virtually no running game, all the Ravens had to do was not commit turnovers. Oh, they tried, committing two, the costliest being Lewis' fumble at the Ravens' 44, which the Jets returned to the 1-yard line in the third quarter. But the Ravens held the offenseless Jets to a field goal.

That's why the Ravens went conservative. New York had no offense (28 yards rushing, 124 passing) and no boldness.

Meanwhile, the Ravens' game plan allowed their offensive line to gain some much-needed confidence.

There was a little crowing after the game, but this wasn't a dominating performance. Efficient is a better word. After the game, some of the linemen said they were under a gag order not to talk to the media, which is fine, because there were a lot of people who gagged after watching them play in the first two games.

By running the ball, the Ravens also gave quarterback Anthony Wright time to gain somewhat of a rhythm in the passing offense that had been desperately missing. Wright completed 15 of 21 passes for 144 yards, and this was the first time a Ravens quarterback didn't emerge from a game looking for his head or painkillers.

You know this style of play has to be killing Billick. He has never met a go route, fade pattern or alley-oop pass he didn't like. With 10:15 left in the game, Billick and offensive coordinator Jim Fassel gave in to temptation.

On the Jets' 39-yard line and leading 13-3, Wright handed off to Taylor, who pitched back to Wright. Wright threw into double coverage to receiver Clarence Moore (of all people), and the pass was picked off in the end zone by safety Erik Coleman.

That's when the fans should have booed Billick. He caved in to a passing offense where the quarterback still trips over his own feet, linemen still get beat regularly on pass protection and receivers still run 2 yards short of the first-down markers on third-down plays.

But otherwise, it was a well-executed game plan by the Ravens. It won't work against the good teams in the league, but right now the Ravens aren't one of those good teams, either.

The Ravens were desperate for a win. They needed one to stay 2 1/2 games behind the Cincinnati Bengals and one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. Some of the Ravens suggested that this was the old formula for success but, sorry guys, Sam Adams, Rob Burnett, Tony Siragusa and Michael McCrary are missing from the locker room.

On a day when two poor offensive teams played each other, the Ravens did enough to win. Get used to it. The Ravens play Detroit next, followed by Cleveland and Chicago.

We're not talking offensive juggernauts here, either.

The Ravens made the right choice yesterday. They could have awakened this morning at 0-3, a team with a lot of offensive problems. Instead, they're 1-2 and a team with a lot of offensive problems.

They have to do whatever it takes.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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