Boller doing Ravens big favor by standing in there, taking hits


October 15, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Kyle Boller just moved up a notch in my Most Valuable Raven voting. He's No. 2 after kicker Matt Stover.

There is such as thing as taking one for the team, and then there is what Boller did yesterday. He took the beating of a lifetime.

And guess what? He'll probably have to take another one Sunday in Buffalo.

The Ravens basically want to go into their Nov. 5 road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a fully healthy lineup. They would prefer to rest quarterback Steve McNair and his injuries (groin, back, fingernail, hair, eyelid) against the Bills before heading into the bye week, and then on to Pittsburgh.

With three rookie offensive linemen likely to start for the second straight week against the Bills, Boller likely will get the starting assignment again, and he'll take another horrible beating.

Boller completed 18 of 30 passes for 184 yards yesterday and was sacked only two times, but he was the recipient of some vicious hits. He'll be seeing them in his sleep for the next few nights.

If the Ravens win in Buffalo and somehow can find the right chemistry for the rest of the season, then maybe we'll look back at the Rams and Bills games as the turning point if Boller survives.

Certainly, McNair wouldn't have been left standing if he took the same kind of beating Boller took yesterday.

Chucking it up

The Ravens' old chuck-it-up plays were back in the offense.

After being criticized for weeks for not taking shots downfield, the Ravens threw a couple deep balls to their wide receivers. Demetrius Williams had two catches, one that went for 34 yards. Mark Clayton was interfered with on another pass that eventually led to a 6-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee in the second quarter.

As expected, the long passes weren't well designed, not like something you would see with the New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts. But at least there was something to get a little excited about with this offense.

`Twilight Zone'

Here are things not to get excited about.

The Ravens had a scoring drive of five plays and 27 yards that ended with a 43-yard field goal by Stover. They had another scoring drive of seven plays and 19 yards that ended with a 42-yard field goal by Stover.

Stover kicked five field goals yesterday. Needless to say, the Ravens' trips into the red zone have been like traveling into the Twilight Zone.

Ominous signs

The omen for the Ravens' offense came early. Very early.

On the Ravens' first possession, it was third down but most of the offensive linemen started running off the field because they thought it was fourth down.

Boller had to signal them back on to the field, and it was downhill from there.

Poor competition

The only reason for optimism I have left for the Ravens is that this team hasn't played its best football because it hasn't had to.

The Ravens have played some really bad teams, and yesterday was a comedy. The Rams, hit hard by injuries, were atrocious, and backup quarterback Gus Frerotte threw five interceptions.

Before passing more judgment on the Ravens, I'd like to see them play a quality team. So far, they've beaten the NFL's JV.

Hang in there

One of my favorite moments came with 10:32 left in the first half. Boller had just been sacked by Rams defensive end Leonard Little, and St. Louis recovered the quarterback's fumble at the Ravens' 16-yard line.

As Boller sat on the bench, McNair sat next to him and patted him on the knee, a definite Kodak moment.

I bet you McNair said: "Kyle, I love you, man. You're like a brother to me. But it's better you than me."

More stupid stuff

On the same play as Little's sack of Boller, Ravens rookie fullback Le'Ron McClain was penalized an additional 5 yards for delay of game (kicking the ball).

It seems as if the Ravens get nailed with one of these stupid penalties every week. It's time for coach Brian Billick to have a seminar titled "How Not to Be Dumb."

Not Ram tough

The second quarter summed up the Rams' season. Early in the quarter, Frerotte underthrew receiver Drew Bennett by 8 yards down the right sideline after Bennett had badly beaten Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister. McAlister, who has gotten torched the past two weeks, actually picked off the pass.

About three minutes later, Marques Hagens dropped Frerotte's best-thrown pass of the day in the end zone. On the next play, Jeff Wilkins missed a 35-yard field-goal try.

Now you know why the Rams are 0-6.

Hits taking a toll

The Ravens like those dink and dunk passes, but they might be taking a toll on the receivers. Wide-out Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap usually get hit immediately after the receptions.

Heap sat out last week and barely played yesterday because of a hamstring injury, and Mason gets up slower and slower each game after tackles. Can you imagine what they're going to be like in Week 12?

Starting job for Chester?

Pending how he grades out in the film, second-year center Chris Chester might become the permanent replacement for veteran Mike Flynn.

The Ravens would like Chester to take the job because of the influx of youth on the offensive line, but Flynn knows the offense better and is better at making the proper assignment calls.

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