Billick has to take responsibility for how low Ravens have sunk

On the Ravens

Ravens Gameday

October 10, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

DETROIT — Detroit-- --The Ravens, celebrating their 10th season in Baltimore, produced the lowest moment in team history yesterday, a 35-17 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

No one cares about the final margin of victory. Blowouts are a part of the game. What was more troubling than the Ravens' poorly schemed passing game and lack of big plays were the 21 penalties, one short of the NFL record for one game, which also resulted in two players being ejected.

Happy anniversary, Ravens.

In a year in which many experts thought the franchise would make the city proud again by challenging for a Super Bowl title, the Ravens lacked discipline and were out of control yesterday.

They pouted, threw tantrums and taunted opposing players - and one of our beloved bunch even drew a penalty for giving an obscene gesture to the crowd.

Maybe it was because they were breathing that Detroit "Bad Boys" air, or perhaps they wanted revenge on Ravens fans who booed Kyle Boller's injury in the season opener, but this was embarrassing.

There have been other low moments before, like blowing a 21-0 second-quarter lead to Pittsburgh in 1997 before losing, 42-34. There were the numerous losses to Jacksonville in the first few years after the club moved from Cleveland, the five-game touchdown drought in 2000, falling to Tennessee in the first round of the playoffs after the 2003 season and losing a big lead to Cincinnati last year.

But yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens became the Baltimore Brats.

"I'm sorry I didn't finish my coloring book," said former Ravens majority owner Art Modell, trying to find some humor. "Honestly, I had more pain watching that game than I did falling last week and having an operation on my back."

It feeds into the negative image the Ravens have around the NFL as a team of misfits and thugs. After the game, Ravens coach Brian Billick said he had to let some of the emotion subside and watch the film before he could fully answer any questions.

What's he going to see that he didn't see yesterday up close and personal? Didn't he see defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu making an obscene gesture and taunting fans while giving the Lions a first down on the 1-yard line after the Ravens had stopped Detroit on a goal-line stand in the third quarter?

Didn't he see outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and B.J. Ward (in fact, it was safety Ed Reed) both inadvertently bump officials after penalties and then get ejected? They should have called in the National Guard because so many Ravens had to be escorted out of the stadium.

NFL referee Mike Carey threw his flag, his cap and was about to throw his underwear while tossing Suggs out of the game.

"He [Suggs] bumped me with malice in his heart and he was gone. He said a number of things to me," Carey said.

Regardless of the call, nothing warrants that behavior. If that wasn't enough, how about cornerback Chris McAlister slamming a ball down in front of Lions receiver Kevin Johnson after an interception in the second quarter or receiver Derrick Mason throwing a ball into the wall after he disagreed with an official's call on a possible reception in the fourth quarter?

The Ravens imploded, and Billick needs to accept a lot of the blame. You began to see this team unravel last year with the different factions in the locker room and how star players were treated differently from others.

This is the team that has no curfews and the cream-puff training camp. Billick says he wants to treat his players like men, but they certainly didn't act like adults yesterday.

It has been that way for years, and just look at all the penalties. In years past, the Ravens could compensate for mistakes because they had talented players like Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware and Jamal Lewis, but they are past their primes.

Billick said he will evaluate the situation with the penalties, but never used these words, "My fault; this is my team."

Oh, we waited.

The media gave him numerous opportunities, but he didn't look in the mirror. There is an arrogance there that will never be denied.

But this is also a team that represents Baltimore, and the Ravens are struggling. The referees blew a call when Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington threw a pass in the first quarter that was ruled a fumble, with the Lions recovering and running it 27 yards to the Ravens' 2-yard line.

Detroit scored two plays later. But if the Ravens had continued to hustle and play until the whistle, they could have recovered the fumble. At that point, your mind shoots back to training camp, when the Ravens had to go to the air-conditioned practice facility because it was too hot, or when they didn't practice because they were too tired. A hungry team plays until the whistle ends the play.

There was a time when the Ravens' style worked. They had an outspoken coach and players who intimidated the opposition with a lot of trash talking. But those times are gone. This is a poorly coached team that is hampered every week by penalties, a team that saw a special teams player line up on the wrong side of the field again yesterday on the kickoff return team.

The Ravens need to get rid of the dancing, prancing and temper tantrums, all the cussing and fussing. They need some guidelines, and if they can't abide by them, then it's time for those players to move on.

Billick has to become accountable, and maybe today he'll stand up and say it's his team and his problem.

There is a problem, right?

And maybe new owner Steve Bisciotti needs to issue a statement about how his franchise and city were disgraced by that sad display yesterday.

It was a low moment, the worst in Ravens history.

Happy anniversary, Ravens.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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