Needing To Heal

Double digits? That can wait

Ravens Anayysis

October 09, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

Brian Billick really had only two choices after the Ravens managed just three field goals in Sunday's skintight victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

He could join the rest of us and panic about his team's lack of production in the red zone, or he could channel Gertrude Stein and let the result speak entirely for itself. Not surprisingly, he went with the latter when he was asked how apprehensive fans should view the Ravens' performance at Monster Park.

Indeed, a win is a win is a win, even if the offensive production remains in single digits.

"If nine points will do it the next two times we go to the West Coast in San Diego and Seattle, great ... super ... I'll take it," Billick said yesterday.

Frankly, I'm not sure Billick made his point or mine when he said that, because nine points probably won't get the job done in San Diego or Seattle, but I'll concede his major theme: It's hard to win on the road. It's harder to win after traveling coast to coast. And the banged-up Ravens improved to 3-2 in spite of an early-season injury epidemic that refuses to abate.

Given all that, I guess you take your three field goals, give Matt Stover a loving pat on the butt and look ahead to the winless St. Louis Rams, who will be stopping by M&T Bank Stadium this weekend.

"I hope our fans can appreciate how hard it is to win in this league," Billick said. "I think they do. People will extrapolate what they want out of it, but I'm thrilled to have that win."

This is not to say the Ravens are satisfied with their inability to run up penalty yardage for excessive end zone celebration. Billick made it clear at the start of his day-after news conference that the coaching staff continues to search for a route over the goal line that is a little less challenging than the Khyber Pass.

(Pardon the obscure geographical reference, but the end zone seemed so remote Sunday, I was afraid the Ravens might try to plant a flag there if they ever scored a touchdown.)

"Countless hours are being put on it in terms of evaluation and what we can do," Billick said. "The team's playing pretty well. That's the one thing we've left ourselves vulnerable in that we have moved the ball well, but we've got to come up with a touchdown instead of a field goal."

That would be nice, if only because Stover is getting on in years, and it has to take a toll trying to carry the offense around on those little shoulders. He has a great attitude about it, but I'm guessing if you put him on a lie detector, he'd tell you he wouldn't mind mixing in an extra point once in a while.

If you want to look at it as a good news/bad news situation, the good news is that the schedule remains soft until the bye week. The Rams are 0-5 and the Buffalo Bills went into last night's game against the Dallas Cowboys with one victory in their first four games. That means the Ravens should have four weeks to get things figured out.

The bad news? The second-half schedule is so unforgiving that it could get pretty ugly if they don't. With all due respect to a defense that bounced back nicely Sunday, if the Ravens actually do score nine points against the Chargers and the Seahawks, they probably aren't going to the playoffs this year.

Billick undoubtedly knows this, but he is right to keep his head while the rest of us are losing ours. The Ravens have an excellent chance of getting to the bye with a 5-2 record, even with the bumps and bruises that have hampered the offensive line and struck several key skills players in the first five weeks of the season.

Maybe when they get healthy, the whole red-zone thing will cease to be a major issue. Maybe, as Billick suggested yesterday, we're just nitpicking.

"And as soon as we get that solved and we start scoring touchdowns, whatever else happens to fall off a little bit, that's what we'll be talking about," he said. "Third-down percentage. Completion percentage. That's just the nature of the game."

We can only hope.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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