Ravens' imperfect 10 is well below average

30 points in 3 games worst start under Billick

October 04, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

A day after securing their first win of the season, the Ravens find themselves in position to make a legitimate run.

The only problem is that their offense is plodding at a frightening pace.

The Ravens have scored just three touchdowns and 30 points, the worst offensive output of any three-game start in the Brian Billick era.

If they want to capitalize on this advantageous three-game stretch -- Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago all have losing records -- the Ravens realize that a 10-point scoring average likely won't cut it.

"We'd like to score more points and probably have to score more points to see the offense expand as we go forward," Billick said. "But if the profile of the game dictates that we play good defense, run the ball and throw the ball effectively enough to keep the game under control, that's exactly what we'll do."

In their first three games, the Lions, Browns and Bears have shown respectable defenses, all of which rank 18th or better in points allowed.

Detroit held Brett Favre and Green Bay to a field goal, Cleveland limited high-powered Indianapolis to 13 points and Chicago allowed only 13 points a game.

The Ravens have the second-worst scoring offense in the NFL, producing more drives that have ended in turnovers (eight) than inside the red zone (six).

The difficulty in reaching the end zone has been the lack of big plays. The Ravens have produced only three runs over 10 yards and two passes of 25 yards or more. That forces the Ravens to repeatedly grind out eight- to 10-play drives, a tough proposition against NFL defenses.

"We're not drawing conclusions about who we are based on the statistics of the first two games," Billick said. "At least for one game now, we're getting what we want, in terms of we made some big plays and the completion percentage was up."

In his second start, quarterback Anthony Wright was efficient, completing 71.4 percent of his throws (15-for-21) despite two drops and two passes that were tipped at the line.

He connected with receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap a combined nine times, hitting Mason for a 32-yard pass and Heap for a 24-yard gain. But the Ravens need a third target to emerge, whether it's Mark Clayton, Clarence Moore or Randy Hymes. Those three receivers combined for one catch Sunday.

"We need a consistency there," Billick said. "To have another presence that people have to account for on the back side, that's the next step for us."

Clayton, who started in place of the struggling Moore, is expected to hold onto that job. "We've got to continue to find ways to get the ball in Mark's hands," Billick said.

Other changes in the Ravens' offense Sunday was starting Alan Ricard at fullback and moving coordinator Jim Fassel from the sideline to the coaching box.

"I thought by putting Jim up in the booth, it would allow him to remove himself from the fray of what's going on and really let Jim get into the flow in the way I know Jim is capable of calling a game," Billick said. "I like the orchestration and I think the game showed it as well."

In Sunday's 13-3 win over the Jets, the Ravens went back to leaning on their running game. They showed their commitment by keeping it on the ground for 40 of their 66 plays.

The one disappointment was Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor failing to break off a big run. Their longest gains were 9 yards.

It seems as if Lewis and his offensive line are out of sync, struggling to get their timing down. Billick described Lewis, who finished with 81 yards on 29 carries, as "anxious."

"He left some yards on the field, and he knows that," Billick said.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are expected to stick with Wright as their starting quarterback at least for the next three weeks.

Kyle Boller, who hyperextended his big toe in the season opener Sept. 11, had a cast removed from his right foot yesterday. He can now begin to rehabilitate it.

"It's obviously sore and sensitive," Billick said. "Right now, everything seems to be on schedule."

Billick said Boller could be available as the third quarterback for the Oct. 16 home game against the Cleveland Browns but indicated "that may be ahead of the curve."

"We'll know after this week better and see as we approach it," Billick said. "It may be the week after [the Cleveland game]. The time frame is a little ambiguous. It's all about the rehab he's going through."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Ravens@Lions Sunday, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Lions by 1 1/2

Slowest start

The Ravens have scored their fewest points and offensive touchdowns of any three-game start under coach Brian Billick.

Off. Avg.

Year Points TDs yards

1999 47 5 283.0

2000 61 6 309.7

2001 47 5 343.7

2002 41 4 230.7

2003 72 6 291.0

2004 56 5 297.7

2005 30 3 280.7

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