Team no longer is out of line in pass protection


Wright sacked only twice vs. Steelers




The Ravens' out-of-sync offensive line that looked too old and slow at the start of the season had perhaps its best showing in Monday night's 20-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Quarterback Anthony Wright threw 44 passes and was sacked just twice. More importantly, Wright was pressured on less than a handful of his attempts though the Steelers blitzed with high frequency.

The protection allowed Wright to complete eight passes of 15 yards or more (his best total of the season), including deep throws down the middle of the field of 31, 16, 15 and 15 yards to Derrick Mason.

"Our offensive line, our backs and tight ends blocked very well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The Steelers force you into a lot of one-on-ones with your backs and tight ends in protection. That's part of the key to their pressure. Our guys did a great job with it. The protection was great all night."

The offensive line, with blocking assistance from backs Jamal Lewis and Justin Green, along with tight ends Darnell Dinkins and Dan Wilcox, has kept Wright upright more times than not recently. Wright has been sacked more than once in two of the past five games.

But the real key is offensive linemen winning more one-on-one battles.

"All we do is try and execute when they call plays," guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "Other times when they called plays, we didn't execute. That's what it is, it's a game of execution. We did better this week, and that's a good thing. So we can move on from here."

The Ravens allowed nine sacks in their first two games, often from defenders coming in untouched. The team is 14th in the league in sacks per play, a 12-spot jump since the third game of the season.

"We just took what we did on the practice field and brought it here," Lewis said of the Steelers game. "It's the same thing we do every week. It's just that we executed it much better and picked [the blitz] up. That was big."

Exchange of words

Cameras caught Mason and Wright exchanging words after Wright failed to find an open Mason in the end zone for what would have been a touchdown in the second quarter. Billick, as expected, defused the situation.

"Derrick's very passionate," Billick said. "It was a route he had broken off that, quite frankly, Anthony was not ready for him to break off in that way."

Mason also had words with the coaching staff after being taken out of the game when the Ravens had moved into the Steelers' red zone in the first half.

Subdued pre-game

The usual pre-game theatrics of dancing and trash-talking were missing from the Ravens, in part, because Ray Lewis sat out the game with a thigh injury.

Without Lewis, the Ravens did not have their emotional leader who usually spends half the warm-up period attempting to hype his teammates.

"I've long given up trying to figure out what the locker room ought to be like before any given game," Billick said. "Sometimes it can be too hyped up, sometimes it can be too quiet. I don't know what one means. [Monday night] almost had a business-like quality to it, which concerned me. I wasn't sure what that meant emotionally. But the way they came out and performed and stepped up to it, it was just the right intensity."

Secondary trouble

With the game there for the taking for the Ravens, breakdowns in the secondary allowed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to march his team 37 yards in two plays, all but assuring a potential field goal in the final minutes of the game.

Roethlisberger hit Antwaan Randle El for 14 yards over the middle of the field, then found Quincy Morgan for 23 yards on the side of Chris McAlister to the Ravens' 42, completions that helped set up Jeff Reed's eventual game-winning kick.

Why did it look so easy for Roethlisberger?

"Alignment, assignment was fine," Billick said. "The technique of getting the proper jam. We didn't get the proper jam that you need in that situation. Physically, we just didn't get the right step, the right hand position, the whole nine yards."

End zone

Despite the loss, players have today and tomorrow off, leaving two full days to prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals. Billick said he plans to cram the normal three-day preparation into the two. "We need the time," Billick said. "Our guys are tired and sore, didn't get in until 4 o'clock in the morning. They're beat up a little bit, as you can imagine any time you play a good, physical game like that." ... The NFL announced that the Nov. 20 home game against the Steelers, originally scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m., has been moved to 1 p.m.

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