Boller's in winning form

QB tosses three scoring passes for 2nd game in row, KO's Minnesota

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 30 Vikings 23

December 26, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

If last Monday's game won Kyle Boller respect, last night's impeccable performance might have won him a starting job for next season.

With touchdowns coming off his strong right arm at an unstoppable rate, Boller carried the Ravens to a 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings before a scattered crowd at M&T Bank Stadium.

As the defense missed tackles and the running game sputtered, Boller threw three touchdown passes for the second straight game - all on third downs - hitting Todd Heap for 6 yards, Mark Clayton for 47 yards and Derrick Mason for 39 yards.

An embattled three-year starter who has been fighting for his job, Boller completed 24 of 34 passes for 289 yards, single-handedly knocking the Vikings (8-7) out of the playoffs and keying an impressive season-ending run for the Ravens (6-9).

It marked the second straight impressive effort on prime time and the Ravens' first winning streak since November 2004.

Trailing for the first three quarters, Boller seized control of the game early in the fourth quarter.

Converting the last of his three third downs of the drive, Boller heaved a 39-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Mason, putting the Ravens up 24-20 just 13 seconds into the final quarter. Mason got separation with a stutter step to the inside, which cornerback Dovonte Edwards bit on, and ran free down the right sideline.

The Ravens then put on the finishing touches with a 38-yard field goal by Matt Stover, extending their margin to 27-20 with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter.

The victory was secured with a fumble recovery by Adalius Thomas 24 seconds later. The turnover was converted into a 19-yard field goal by Stover, giving the Ravens a 30-20 advantage before the Vikings added a late field goal by Paul Edinger.

For the first time this season, the Ravens' offense had to bail out their defense in the first half.

The Vikings put the NFL's No. 6 defense on its heels on the game's opening drive, gaining at least 10 yards on four of seven plays on the first possession.

Brad Johnson completed all five of his passes, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Travis Taylor. The former Ravens receiver was wide open in the end zone as cornerback Chris McAlister froze on a post pattern.

The touchdown was the first allowed by the Ravens' defense in the first quarter in eight games and gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead.

Keeping the momentum from last Monday night's 48-point outburst against the Green Bay Packers, the Ravens answered with a methodical drive, marching 73 yards on 17 plays that featured seven first downs.

The Ravens showed no hesitation in going for a fourth-and-one at the Vikings' 9-yard line, which Boller converted on a sneak. Then, on a third-and-goal, Boller fired a 6-yard touchdown pass to Todd Heap to finalize a drive of more than nine minutes.

The longest touchdown drive of the season for the Ravens tied the game at 7-7 with 1:35 left in the first quarter.

The Ravens' sloppy play on defense resurfaced to cost them before halftime.

An illegal contact penalty on McAlister helped Minnesota convert a third-and-three. Linebacker Adalius Thomas' missed tackle turned a short throw into a 56-yard gain by receiver Troy Williamson, the longest pass play given up by the Ravens this season. And late substitutions - causing the Ravens' players to get the field just before the snap - resulted in an 11-yard pass to Nate Burleson near the goal line.

Capitalizing on those mistakes, Johnson found Jermaine Wiggins for a 5-yard touchdown pass, threading a throw between linebacker Tommy Polley and dime back Chad Williams. Wiggins' first touchdown of the season put Minnesota ahead 14-7 with 1:06 remaining in the second quarter.

Responding once again, Boller moved the Ravens into field-goal range, going 56 yards in the final 58 seconds of the second quarter. He hit Clayton three times and connected with Chester Taylor for a 19-yard pass before Stover's 37-yard field goal ended the first half.

That allowed the Ravens to go into halftime trailing 14-10.

The Ravens' troubles spilled over into the second half, when Chester Taylor fumbled the opening kickoff at his own 26. Minnesota couldn't move the ball and settled for Edinger's 36-yard field goal, widening the margin to 17-10.

Like it had done all game, the Ravens' offense supplied the boost back.

Boller converted a third-and-nine with an 18-yard pass to Taylor, but that was overshadowed by his next third-down pass. With his pass protection picking up the blitz, Boller went over the middle to Clayton, who made an outstretched catch and outran two Vikings defenders for a 47-yard scoring play.

Boller's fifth touchdown pass in two weeks tied the game for the second time, knotting it at 17-17.

On its next possession, Minnesota reclaimed the lead at 20-17 on Edinger's 40-yard field goal.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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