Unit fails to pass muster

Ravens' air game never gets off the ground vs. Raiders

`we played real bad'

Ravens 28 Raiders 6

Ravens Gameday

September 18, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Reporter

Wide receiver Derrick Mason didn't mince words when assessing the Ravens' passing game yesterday.

"An `F' ," Mason said after the 28-6 rout of the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium. "We played real bad. The score is 28-6, but that score doesn't really indicate how we played."

Indeed, while the Ravens' defense continued to revive memories of the unit that carried the team to the Super Bowl title in January 2001 and the ground game churned out 138 yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average, the passing attack was decidedly less impressive.

The offense gained just 126 yards through the air, which was just 3 yards more than Oakland had behind second-year backup Andrew Walter. The Ravens averaged just 3.6 yards per pass play, which was only slightly better than last week's average of 3.1 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quarterback Steve McNair avoided the kind of mistakes that can drive a coach crazy, but he completed just 16 of 33 passes for 143 yards, mixed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Heap with an interception, and was sacked twice. At one point, McNair threw seven straight incompletions.

"We miscued a lot today," said McNair, who finished with a 58.0 passer rating - his worst rating in a complete game since earning a 30.6 rating on Oct. 17, 2004 against the Houston Texans. "It wasn't as sharp as we've been in the past, and the timing wasn't there."

Some of that might have been attributed to the Raiders' pass rush, which was credited with five quarterback hurries. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who sacked McNair twice, said the defensive line felt it could match up with the Ravens' offensive line.

"Our whole key was to get [running back] Jamal [Lewis] under control and see if we could rush them," Sapp said. Lewis finished with 70 yards on 19 carries. "We did a pretty good job."

Another area of concern is the offense's futility inside opponents' 20-yard line. Yesterday's 1-for-6 showing in the red zone was a stark contrast from the Ravens' 2-for-3 performance last week.

All four of Matt Stover's field goals came after the offense had stalled in Oakland's red zone.

"I love Stover to death, but I want to keep him off of the field, and we didn't do that in the red zone today," McNair said. "We want to put six points on the board."

But nine-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said the Ravens are no different from any other NFL team in its quest to improve.

"We're looking to get more consistent in the passing game, more efficient in the run game, looking to protect Steve better," he said. "Nobody starts off great. Everybody just improves as they go along, and that's what we've got to continue to do."

In the end, it was the Ravens' defense that cemented yesterday's victory by surrendering just 162 yards of total offense to the Raiders and recording six takeaways leading to nine points. That performance wasn't lost on Mason.

"If we're going to be considered a top-rated offense, we're going to have to carry our own weight," he said. "Hopefully, we can go down to Cleveland next week and get this offense going. If not, the way our defense is playing, hopefully they can score some points, and they can be our offense."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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