Ravens counting their blessings, with McCareins No. 1, Jets No. 2

ON THE RAVENS

September 17, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

The Ravens gave New York Jets wide receiver Justin McCareins the game ball last night and, of course, he dropped it.

McCareins dropped two game-tying touchdown passes in the final two minutes, ruining a comeback attempt by New York as the Ravens held on for a 20-13 victory.

While McCareins became the goat, it certainly opened up some questions about the Ravens' secondary, which supposedly had taken care of communication problems in training camp.

It's apparent the secondary still has bugs to work out, as exemplifed by extra defensive backs Corey Ivy and Gerome Sapp looking so confused. It's also obvious that when the game is on the line, teams are going to go after cornerback Samari Rolle.

Why did the Ravens' cornerbacks allow Jets receivers to get off the line of scrimmage so cleanly late in the game instead of jamming them? It seemed like zone coverage, but still there were problems.

"Killer instinct. We have to develop it and put teams away," said linebacker Bart Scott.

The Ravens were lucky, and a win is a win, but the Jets were playing with a second-year quarterback making his first start, and he almost forced overtime against the league's No. 1 defense from a year ago.

Nothing comes easy for the Ravens.

Not much to say

Even in silence, Ravens coach Brian Billick can be arrogant, but we'll take the new approach to the old one, where he talked a lot but said little.

When asked if he was concerned about his team committing 11 penalties yesterday, 21 in two games, Billick would only say, "Always." When asked about throwing the incomplete pass on first down from the Ravens' 33 with a lead and 3:12 left in the game instead of trying to run off some time, Billick said: "We just took a shot."

That was it. Sometimes silence is golden, because you can't explain another bonehead call. The Ravens could have run another 35 to 40 seconds off the clock just running on first down. Instead, the series was three and out, and consumed a whopping 34 seconds.

Boller effective

Ravens backup quarterback Kyle Boller turned in a good effort as he completed 23 of 35 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn't spectacular, but he managed his team's conservative game plan.

Boller was a little scary at times and almost had three passes picked off, two possibly returned for touchdowns, but he did exactly what was needed.

He was much better than his New York counterpart, Kellen Clemens, who was making his first start after two seasons in the league. Clemens looked like a rookie. There were times when he didn't even look over the line of scrimmage before the snap and had no awareness where the blitzes were coming from. He held the ball way too long and committed the cardinal sin of patting the ball when dropping back. Not just once, but sometimes twice.

Showing their age?

The biggest fear about this team during the past two seasons was whether age would catch up with it.

In the first two games, the Ravens have had injuries to veterans Jonathan Ogden, Steve McNair, Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce and Rolle.

They're still standing, but you still wonder how long they can hang in.

Highlights

The best hit of the day was from Jets offensive guard Adrien Clarke against Scott in the first quarter on a running play. Not only did Clarke knock Scott off the ball about four yards, he finished him off with a shot that knocked off Scott's helmet.

Very seldom have hits by offensive linemen made ESPN's "Jacked Up" segment, but this one deserves to be there.

The best acting job of the day belonged to Rolle after he tackled wide receiver Laveranues Coles down the left sideline on a long pass attempt. Everyone in the stadium, including the officials, knew it was pass interference except Rolle. He hunched his shoulders and lifted both arms as if to say, "Who, me?" No, it was your twin brother.

Just run

It appears every NFL coach in the league got the memo on Cincinnati's poor run defense except Billick.

In a 51-45 victory over the Bengals yesterday, former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis finished with 215 yards rushing. And the Ravens didn't even try to run it in from the 2-yard line last week in the closing minutes.

Earth, calling Billick ...

Bad timing

The Jets are absolutely horrible. The Ravens were running their two-minute offense at the end of the first half and they got a lot of assistance from New York. Twice in the final 1:28, the Jets used timeouts to get their personnel onto the field.

The Ravens called their last timeout with 10 seconds remaining before Boller threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Heap with six seconds left.

The Jets become the Ravens' 12th man.

Using the flat

I think Billick stole the Jets' defensive signals just like New England coach Bill Belichick. It seemed as if half of Boller's 35 passes were thrown into the flat, and the Jets never adjusted. Billick will probably be hearing from commissioner Roger Goodell soon.

One more thing: Ravens defensive end/outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been in the league for five years now, yet he continues to do goofy things like hurdling the line of scrimmage to try to block an extra point.

The move cost the Ravens 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, and there is no excuse for it. Suggs has played enough to know the rules, and it's apparent at times he lets his emotions get the best of him.

Still.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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