Tales of two QBs might end soon

Boller's time as Raven possibly near last chapter

Packers veteran Favre could end storied career

Gameday

December 19, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

When the Ravens play host to the Green Bay Packers tonight, one quarterback could be taking his final bow on the Monday night stage while the other could be facing a far less sentimental exit.

The question marks hanging over the careers of the Ravens' Kyle Boller and Green Bay's Brett Favre provide the only drama in a (not-so) prime-time matchup between the Ravens (4-9) and the Packers (3-10).

The rumors about Favre retiring have heightened as the Packers face a major rebuilding phase. The three-time NFL Most Valuable Player repeatedly has said he has not made a decision.

Boller doesn't have any such control over his fate. The embattled three-year starter needs to show drastic improvement in his final three games, or he could force the Ravens to look for a veteran replacement this offseason.

"Part of Kyle's maturation is finding that balance for you of: `Look, don't put more pressure on yourself than you have to, but respect the responsibilities I have as the quarterback to make some of these plays,'" coach Brian Billick said. "That's a fine line and that's part of the growth period."

In an apparent sign that the Ravens have run out of answers, Billick has admitted the possibility of sending Boller to a sports psychologist to help him calm down.

Boller's clumsy performance in Denver last week only brought more attention to his troubles in the red zone, where he has a 44.3 quarterback rating this season. He has completed five of 13 passes for 42 yards inside the opponent's 20-yard line, throwing two touchdown passes and being intercepted twice.

The Packers have the fourth-best red-zone defense in the league.

"You've just make yourself calm down, I guess," said Boller, who has about twice as many turnovers (11) as touchdown passes (five). "That's not all of my problem. There's a lot of things I can do better and hopefully I will do better. When it's all said and done, I've got to focus on what I need to focus on and go execute."

Another problem for Boller has been his inaccuracy, which could be detrimental tonight against the NFL's top-ranked pass defense.

According to Stats Inc., Boller has made 38 poor throws this season, which account for 45.8 percent of his incomplete passes. He has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in just three of 31 career starts.

"I don't feel like I'm inaccurate," Boller said. "I can put the ball where I want to. I think some of my decision making has been an issue and it's obvious. I've got to throw the ball away. If I can make a better decision, it's going to make my life a lot easier."

There has been growing speculation that Favre's time might be running out, too.

Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the April draft, prompting many to wonder if Favre will retire or end his career elsewhere. Even Billick questioned aloud whether tonight will be Favre's last Monday night game.

Said Packers coach Mike Sherman: "I think [the question about retirement] is tiresome, particularly because his physical skill has not diminished in any way, shape or form. I would almost find the question offensive."

Favre, who turned 36 in October, has passed for 3,161 yards but he has been intercepted 22 times, which led the NFL by five entering yesterday's games.

Still, he often saves his best performances for prime time. Perhaps the greatest game of his storied career came on a Monday night in December 2003, when he completed 22 of 30 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns a day after his father died.

The latest family tragedy for Favre came Tuesday, when his 87-year-old maternal grandmother, Izella French, had a stroke. Favre said last week, "I think she'll be OK."

"I think anytime there is more attention put on him, he can feel the vibe, and he rises to any occasion or any challenge," said Mike Flanagan, Favre's longtime center.

The extra focus on Favre has not gone over well everywhere, especially in the Ravens' locker room.

"Everybody's talking about Brett Favre like he's just the greatest thing ever to walk the earth. That's kind of getting on my nerves," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "I'm so tired of hearing that, from here in our own locker room to everywhere else. Nothing against Brett Favre, but there's two sides to the ball.

"Everybody's talking about our defense against their offense. What about our offense against their defense? At some point, we have to step up all the way across the board. It's not just us, because we can stop Brett Favre all day. If we don't score, we don't win."

Without Favre, there's little draw to this nationally televised game.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis is one of six Ravens starters not expected to play. The Packers have lost running back Ahman Green and receiver Javon Walker for the season.

"It's not the game that it was scheduled to be," Favre said.

But there's still motivation for these two last-place teams, and it has nothing to do with draft positioning.

"It's a great opportunity to show the country that we are better than our record - because I think we are," Billick said, "and that the passion that this team has had for a number of years exists even in these circumstances."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Packers@Ravens Tonight, 9, chs. 2, 7, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

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