Boller's revival shows that the doctor is definitely in

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 30, Vikings 23

December 26, 2005|By DAVID STEELE

First of all, and I believe I speak for the entire Baltimore metropolitan area, but who has Kyle Boller been talking to the past couple of weeks? And what do we have to do to get an appointment? Doc, you could be a millionaire overnight. You're a miracle worker.

Two weeks ago today, Boller's head coach publicly suggested he might need a little counseling from some professionals on the Ravens' staff, and after having seen Boller come apart at the seams in Denver, the public wondered, why didn't somebody think of that before?

Now, you can't help but wonder, what has gotten into this guy? Two games, two wins, by a combined 78-26. Pick any five-week stretch of the season before then, and you won't have the Ravens totaling 78 points. It doesn't even matter if it was the doormat Packers or the soft Vikings. The Vikings' playoff lives were in the balance last night at M&T Bank Stadium. They got extinguished, and it was Boller who turned the hose on them. He, above all others.

The Boller of two weeks ago in Denver might not be dead and gone - it is still just a two-week segment of a three-year NFL career, and he's got a lot to answer for about those times - but it sure looks nothing like the Boller since then.

So, what happened? Was there any one thing, in practice, in meetings, in film sessions, anything on or off the field that created the anti-Kyle of the last two games?

"I know I made some bad decisions in the Denver game. I'll continue to tell you that. I made three or four bad decisions," he said last night. "I haven't made bad decisions the last two games. That's given us a chance to win. I haven't turned the ball over very much. That's one thing that's going to happen - if we don't turn the ball over, we're gonna win a whole lot of games."

You could have gotten great odds against Boller coming anywhere close to his performance against the Packers this time around - better odds than you could have had on him having that big game the week before. Once could be passed off as a fluke. Twice defies logic, based on his history.

But match it, he did, against a team that was far from mailing it in. Brad Johnson carved up the Ravens on the first possession of the game, took them right into the end zone, and set stomachs jumping all over the stadium. Yet Boller immediately settled them down with a 17-play, 9 1/2 -minute drive, capped by a touchdown pass of his own to tie the game.

Johnson was 5-for-5 on his first drive. Boller was 7-for-8. Last week clearly was rubbing off.

Johnson, mind you, was the name mentioned most often as the kind of quarterback who might have worked out - or might still work out - here, a veteran mentor who could ease Boller's transition. He showed why pretty much all night, but Boller was better. Boller outlasted him. Boller made big reads, big decisions, big plays further into the game than Johnson did.

The last thing anyone on the visiting sideline should have expected was to get into a shootout and see the Ravens be the last ones firing. Mike Tice likely didn't expect that, or else he might not have punted with eight minutes left in the game, trailing 24-20 but with fourth-and-one at the Ravens' 38. Pin Boller back and put your defense in against a guy who two weeks ago was tripping while dropping back and fumbling without being hit.

Oops. Boller marched the Ravens inside the Vikings' 20, crossed the two-minute warning and got them a field goal by Matt Stover. The lead was seven, and the Vikings never got closer than that.

That possession wasn't as pretty as the one during which Boller hit a stretching Mark Clayton down the middle for a 47-yard touchdown in the third, or when Boller found Derrick Mason deep down the right side in the fourth for the go-ahead score. But it said as much about the quarterback Boller has been lately as anything he has done.

It impressed his teammates as much as it did the other millions of slack-jawed onlookers, in person and on their couches post-holiday meal. Mason even acknowledged how hard it was to give Boller a public vote of confidence two weeks ago - remember, he described himself as a "glorified running back" after that game.

"I myself was critical somewhat," Mason said. "I wanted him to be a little more careful with the ball, take care of it a little bit more. Slow down, be more patient. And that's what he's done.

"Everybody was down on him, but he's a trooper. He's persevered, and at this point, we're all supportive of him. He's shown everybody what he can do."

There's still that previous body of work to address, though. Boller has one more week to show it again, in the season finale in Cleveland. Minds all over the place were made up on him two weeks ago. A lot of those minds aren't so sure now.

Doc, wherever you are - nice job. We'll be asking for a reference.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog

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