Game 9: From bad to worse

Jaguars 30, Ravens 3

Boller's return merely adds to frustration in Ravens' 4th loss in row

  • Bobby McCray (93) beats Jonathan Ogden to sack Kyle Boller, who when he had time often missed his targets on a 19-for-33 day in his first action since the opener.
Bobby McCray (93) beats Jonathan Ogden to sack Kyle Boller,… (Sun photo by David Hobby )
November 14, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Sun Reporter

In a season in which the Ravens' offense has become a cruel joke, quarterback Kyle Boller became the punch line yesterday.

From the bone-jarring four sacks to the teeth-gnashing three interceptions, Boller only compounded the Ravens' yearlong struggles in a painful 30-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When a receiver was open, Boller was getting slammed into the Alltel Stadium turf. When Boller had time, he often missed his target wildly. And when the receivers were covered, Boller got picked off.

Instead of sparking the Ravens' listless offense in his return, Boller only ignited more questions about how he - or anyone else - can turn this attack around.

The last-place Ravens haven't scored a touchdown since the first quarter of their Oct. 31 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The drought spans 11 quarters, 166 minutes, 54 seconds of clock time and 30 possessions.

Beaten and dejected, Boller was left to explain how all the Ravens' high-priced offensive weapons have disappeared in a cloud of ineptitude.

"I don't have the answers," Boller said. "We have a lot of stuff to work on, that's for sure."

The Ravens' fourth straight loss - and eighth in a row on the road - dropped them to a franchise-worst 2-7 and plummeted the offense to depths never seen before this year.

The NFL's lowest-scoring offense produced season lows in points, total yards (163), first downs (eight) and net passing yards (110).

With seven games remaining, Boller offered this challenge to his teammates.

"You've got to look at yourself in the mirror and decide what kind of man you want to be," Boller said. "Do you want to finish this thing strong and try to keep this team going? If you don't want to do it, don't be out there because there's a lot of guys on this team that want to be out there."

The turning point in the game came midway through the third quarter, when Boller failed to complete the critical throw and Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich did.

Trailing 10-3, the Ravens had three chances from the Jacksonville 15-yard line, their only trip inside the red zone. Boller first skipped a pass to receiver Randy Hymes and then led him out of bounds on the second one.

On third down, Boller locked onto tight end Todd Heap and was intercepted by cornerback Terry Cousin.

"It's one of those things where you've got to get points in the red zone," Boller said, "and I just forced it in there."

The Jaguars (6-3) answered with a 13-play, 92-yard drive that included a 36-yard pass to receiver Matt Jones from Leftwich (16-for-30 for 211 yards and one touchdown), whom the Ravens wanted to draft before Boller in 2003. Two plays later, Greg Jones scored on a 1-yard run and the game quickly unraveled for the Ravens.

"That took us from a high to a low right there," said Heap, who had five catches for 58 yards. "To not get points at that time, it's real frustrating. It's a thing where you can't point the finger at one guy right now."

One more time, the Ravens couldn't revive their stagnant running game. Jamal Lewis finished with 44 yards on 14 carries and never broke a run longer than 7 yards.

And one more time, the passing attack couldn't pick up the slack. Boller was erratic (19-for-33 for 142 yards), but for good reason.

He was sacked three times in the second half, the result of catching the Ravens off guard. The Jaguars usually rely on their front four to generate pressure, but they blitzed linebackers and even cornerbacks yesterday.

"We've got to get him protected better certainly if we expect him to play better," coach Brian Billick said of Boller.

Asked if Boller fell into some old, bad habits, Billick said, "Whether he's staring down a receiver or not, I don't have that level of expertise to make that comment yet."

Although appearing antsy in his first game since injuring his toe in the season opener, Boller started strong by completing nine of his first 12 throws, including the first seven. Then, his most vicious sack occurred on the Ravens' last offensive play of the first half.

Boller was sandwiched between two Jaguars, tackled underneath by one defender while Cousin jolted him high with a straight-on shot. After that sack, Boller was 10-for-21 the rest of the way.

"You never want to see your quarterback get hit like that," Heap said. "That's stuff we have to get fixed. It's good to have Kyle back in there, so we need to keep him in there."

Boller missed a touchdown strike to Mark Clayton in the fourth quarter by a hand. Cousin intercepted the pass with a leaping grab just in front of a wide-open Clayton.

Boller's third interception was returned 26 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Mike Peterson, which ended a dubious Jacksonville streak with 2:01 left in the game. The Jaguars had tied an NFL record by going 58 games without scoring at least 30 points.

If only the Ravens had that problem. They are the only team not to crack 20 points in a game this season.

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