Despite numerous missteps, Ravens still do victory dance

The Kickoff

November 13, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

It's hard to win without your defensive leader, but it has been done before.

It's really hard to win when one of the most talented rookies in the NFL is having a career day for the other team, but you can overcome that kind of thing against a struggling 2-6 opponent.

It's really, really hard to win when you repeatedly do stupid, self-defeating things that call into question the decision-making ability and self-control of your key personnel. And that includes coach Brian Billick, who got himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while the Ravens were trying to get back into yesterday's game.

Billick went off on an official in the third quarter and pushed the Ravens deeper into their own territory, but that only made it harder for him to be judgmental about the mental errors made by several of his players on the way to a heart-stopping 27-26 victory in Music City.

There was, for instance, the interception Steve McNair threw in the end zone, which everybody attributed to the fact that the ball was tipped, even though the replay from behind McNair showed he was needlessly throwing into multiple coverage and might well have been intercepted anyway. Another Denver red zone moment.

McNair also inadvertently stepped out of his own end zone for a damaging safety in the first half.

If that weren't bad enough, Chris McAlister jumped offside on a Titans field-goal attempt (which sailed wide left), giving Tennessee new life that led to a touchdown in the first half. And how about that tipped ball that Ed Reed picked off and then juked his way from the Titans' 30-yard line to the Titans' 44-yard line?

The Ravens were nine points down and Reed ran them out of field-goal range before attempting a risky lateral. In that case, the Ravens eventually got the field goal anyway, but they might have gotten more if they had started closer to the red zone.

Of course, all was forgiven when the Ravens moved to 7-2 and the second-place Cincinnati Bengals lost to the San Diego Chargers to fall three games off the lead in the AFC North, but dumb doesn't stop being dumb just because you got away with it.

Bringing it all back

The game was tough to watch, because Vince Young kept giving me flashbacks from the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Rose Bowl last year. His bootleg to put the Titans in field-goal position in the final minute was reminiscent of the clutch runs that carried Texas to the national title over Southern California. Didn't really need to relive that, but all's well that ends well.

Titanic reference

I appreciate Billick giving a plug to my alma mater during last week's buildup to the Titans game, though it wasn't very flattering.

When Ravens beat writer Jamison Hensley asked Billick why the Ravens had trouble finishing off opponents, he tried to put the competitive nature of the NFL in perspective: "This isn't Florida vs. Cal State-Fullerton," Billick said.

I'm surprised Brian even remembered those Titans, because Fullerton canceled its Division I-A football program when Mark Clayton was in short pants.

BCS fever

The Trojans jumped up to fourth place in both major polls after a lopsided victory over Oregon on Saturday, thanks to several Top 10 upsets this weekend. That, combined with a favorable strength of schedule, probably would put USC into the BCS title game again this year if the Trojans can run the table against California, UCLA and Notre Dame.

Kind of a big if, however.

NFL parody

NFL parity is starting to look like NFL parody after a couple more big upsets yesterday. I'm not surprised that the Houston Texans covered the spread at Jacksonville, but I never believed they would win there.

The New York Jets also went into New England as a double-digit dog and emerged with a victory to improve their record to 5-4, just one game out of first place. New coach Eric Mangini obviously is getting the most out of the Jets, and it had to be a treat to beat his old boss.

Wright a good move

The Orioles have hit the ground running with the acquisition of pitcher Jaret Wright, which is preferable to just hitting the ground, which they have been doing regularly for the past nine years.

Wright isn't exactly Roger Clemens, but rotation depth is crucial for a team that probably will have to trade one of its prized young pitchers to put another legitimate run producer in the middle of the lineup.

Open question

Can I possibly be this bad? I called the Ravens right against the spread again this week to go to 8-1 in their games, but went 1-8 over the rest of the early afternoon schedule. It defies science, or at least the laws of probability.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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