Patchwork line does job filling in

With four starters missing, reserves able to protect Boller

December 12, 2005|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

DENVER -- As he completed what would be his final throw of the day -- one of only a handful of passes that ended up being accurate -- Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller did so in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Boller, with his team trailing by nine in the fourth quarter of an eventual 12-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, floated a deep corner route on the first play after the two-minute warning to Mark Clayton.

Clayton used his speed to run under the ball as it floated in the air, then tight-roped the sideline for 4 yards and stuck the ball over the goal line before tumbling out of bounds for a 39-yard touchdown.

The throw and the catch will get the attention, but it was the blocking -- behind two rookies and a second-year player -- that made the play work.

"My offensive line did a fabulous job," Boller said. "That's a good defense there. Some guys had to step up, and that wasn't a problem at all today."

Despite finishing the game with four starters missing along the offensive line, Boller did not receive the punishment he had in previous outings. Against Denver, Boller had time to throw and a pocket to step up in for most of his 39 attempts.

Boller was sacked twice, but neither netted lost yardage.

If ever there was supposed to be a clear advantage heading into the game, the Broncos' front four on defense, featuring three first-round draft picks, looked to have it against an offensive line that had rookie Jason Brown starting his first game in place of left guard Edwin Mulitalo.

But Brown, like fellow rookie Adam Terry, who replaced an injured Jonathan Ogden (ankle) for the final series, held his own. Boller completed five of seven passes on the Ravens' only touchdown drive with an all-rookie left (blind) side.

It was the first significant action this season for Brown, the Ravens' fourth-round pick who is also the backup center.

"We'll have to get in there and review things on film," Brown said. "I got my ankle rolled up right before the first half. That hurt me pretty bad. A first impression is a lasting impression, and I really wanted to give my team the best that I could.

"I hope that we can look back on things and say that I gave a winning performance."

Brown joined a growing list of young linemen who have replaced injured veterans this season.

Right guard Keydrick Vincent missed his fourth straight game with a thigh injury, and Brian Rimpf started in his place. Tony Pashos continued at right tackle for Orlando Brown, who was put on injured reserve last week.

Ogden sprained his ankle against the Broncos, a week after he missed most of the previous game with a hamstring injury. Terry, who struggled in place of Ogden against the Houston Texans, rebounded to neutralize Trevor Pryce in his limited time down the stretch.

"Sometimes it's fun playing with the young guys out there," said center Mike Flynn, the only lineman not to miss significant time. "They played hard. They played hard last week. They'll get better with time. I think they'll be better picking up recognition, not physically getting beat, but just recognition."

What the young Ravens need to get better at is pushing defensive linemen off the ball, something their predecessors excelled at.

Boller may have made it through unscathed, but the running game did not. Chester Taylor was held to 59 yards on 20 carries, and the Ravens could not pound the ball in from 1 yard on a key fourth-down play.

The Ravens ran the ball four times from Denver's 5-yard line during the game, but Brown was hit with a holding penalty once, and Taylor had carries of 3, 1 and minus-4 yards on the fourth down in the fourth quarter.

It was the reverse of the type of offensive line performances seen around the Ravens for years, where the pass blocking was suspect but the run blocking was dominant.

"We'll have to look at it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "But for guys like Jason Brown ... I thought protection for the most part was outstanding."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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