With tough schedule remaining, Ravens needed to win this one

ON THE RAVENS

Ravens Gameday

Bills 18 Ravens 14

October 22, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Orchard Park, N.Y. — Orchard Park, N.Y.-- --It's still a long season, but the Ravens' playoff chances took a major hit yesterday when they were upset, 19-14, by the Buffalo Bills.

It was no secret that the Ravens had an easy first-half schedule and couldn't afford to lose more than three games. Buffalo (2-4) was one of the teams the Ravens had to beat regardless of where it was played.

With the loss, the Ravens dropped to 4-3. They have a bye next week before traveling to Pittsburgh for a Monday night game Nov. 5. After that game, the Ravens' second-half schedule includes another game with the Steelers, and one each with their other AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, along with home games against the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, and road games against the San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks.

The Ravens are a team desperately in need of a bye. There was a lot of tension in the locker room after the game, and even coach Brian Billick acknowledged that this was a tough time.

"We've got to stick together, obviously," Billick said. "Everybody is very vulnerable right now. Everybody is upset, everybody is [ticked] off, and that's to be understood."

Billick had some strong language for his team after the game. Apparently, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

No excuses, please

Please, let's not hear excuses about the Ravens not being focused, or injuries. Except for a few plays, the Bills outplayed the Ravens, and even tried to hand them the game at the end, but the Ravens couldn't take it.

The bottom line is that the Ravens aren't a very good football team right now. They barely won some games they should have dominated earlier in the season.

The Ravens can't score inside the red zone. The secondary has had frequent problems stopping mid- to long-range passes, and the penalties are a sign of a team that lacks discipline. The Ravens had 11 for 91 yards yesterday.

Suspect play-calling

Quiet - genius at work.

Let's see, on the Ravens' first drive of the third quarter, they went 80 yards in six plays as running back Willis McGahee rushed four times for 72 yards, including 46 for a touchdown.

On the next series, the Ravens completed two short passes, and quarterback Kyle Boller was sacked on third down. We're aware that McGahee struggled with dehydration later in the game, but he was in on that miserable second series of the third quarter.

There were no carries. It's unexplainable.

Now, let's fast-forward to the Ravens' final series of the game. Needing just 1 yard for a first down from Buffalo's 49-yard line with 1:59 left, the Ravens had Boller throw three straight passes, all incompletions.

I've never been an NFL offensive coordinator or put together the highest-scoring offense in league history, but I'm going to run the ball to get that first down, and then we'll go from there.

But, shhhh ... we're still trying to figure out what the genius was thinking.

One for all?

Apparently the theme coming out of the Ravens' locker room after the game was sticking together. Billick must have mentioned it a couple of times because the drones (players) repeated it.

Of course, the Ravens won't say there are any problems, but I imagine there are a couple brewing. I bet some of the other players are wondering when Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is going to start a game again, and ditto for veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce.

And if this team goes south, this is going to look more like a MASH unit than an NFL team.

Ogden sharp in return

Speaking of Ogden, he was active and played a series or two in the second quarter. He made Bills right end Aaron Schobel disappear from the game as fast as the Ravens pulled the plug on McGahee, but Ogden didn't play in the second half.

While on the field, Ogden looked good. It looks like he will be ready for Pittsburgh, though conditioning will be a problem.

The same can't be said of center Mike Flynn, who had to leave in the second quarter with a recurring knee problem.

Running sideways

Play of the day: The Ravens ran running back Mike Anderson on a 1-yard pass pattern into the left flat, and Anderson was covered stride for stride by Bills defensive lineman Ryan Neill, all 253 pounds of him.

It might have been better if Anderson ran vertically instead of horizontally.

Reputation takes a hit

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis has repeatedly said his team has the best defense in the NFL, but he should back off that statement. The Ravens got beat by a team starting a rookie quarterback, Trent Edwards, running a no-huddle offense and a rookie running back, Marshawn Lynch (whose style is very similar to McGahee's).

The Bills are young, and it showed late in the game. Edwards' interception led to Derrick Mason's 15-yard touchdown reception with 6:15 remaining, and Buffalo coach Dick Jauron was afraid to let him throw from that point forward.

The Bills also tried to return a punt from the 4-yard line and a kickoff from the end zone late in the game, and they did everything to lose except score for the Ravens.

Help wanted: quarterback

I still stand by two statements I made earlier this year.

First, the Ravens can't play at the level of the Patriots or the Colts because quarterback Steve McNair can no longer make plays like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Second, the Ravens don't have a quarterback controversy because they really don't have a quarterback. The McBoller combination is not the answer either.

Who is available in the draft?

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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