Billick defends kick call

December 18, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

Brian Billick isn't second-guessing himself.

Under siege from a barrage of criticism from media and fans, the Ravens coach defended his decision to send in kicker Matt Stover instead of trying for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Miami Dolphins' 1-yard line with 12 seconds left and the Ravens trailing 16-13 Sunday.

Billick said had he given the signal to go for it, the Dolphins -- and especially defensive coordinator Dom Capers -- would have stuck everyone on the line of scrimmage to dissuade the Ravens from giving the ball to running back Willis McGahee.

With that in mind, Billick continued, the next step would have been to send in a play-action call with the hope that rookie quarterback Troy Smith could avoid an incompletion or interception.

"Had we done that after what we had done to get down there and any of those things had happened, I can imagine what the critique would have been today about the play call," Billick said. "So in a very short, heated time, the comment was, `You know what? We've worked hard to get it to this point. We have confidence. We'll go ahead and kick it.' Should we have gone for it? Yeah, certainly, we could have."

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy said he would have gone for it.

Speaking on former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe's "Movin' the Chains" show on Sirius NFL Radio yesterday, Dungy acknowledged the pressure Billick must have been experiencing, but also said he would have taken the risk.

"I think that you go for it," Dungy said. "You've got to have a play that you feel good about gaining a foot."

Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason agreed with Billick's call.

"I thought it was the right call," Esaison, now an NFL analyst for CBS, said by telephone last night. "You're on the road. You kick the field goal and put yourselves in position to win the game in overtime."

Lewis might play -- Linebacker Ray Lewis indicated that he may be able to play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday despite a dislocated finger on his left hand. On his radio show last night, Lewis, who dislocated his finger on the Dolphins' first touchdown drive in the third quarter and did not return, said the bone protruded through the skin. "I've been through [worse]," Lewis said. "But I'm fine."

Snap decision -- While Stover absorbed the blame for hooking a 44-yard field-goal attempt wide left in overtime, CBS analyst and former quarterback Rich Gannon seemed to place the blame on long snapper Matt Katula. Although the snap to holder Sam Koch appeared high, Billick declined to take a side on the matter. "The mantra is that always every good kick, every bad kick has three parts -- the snap, the hold and the kick," Billick said. "And any one of the three could be the reason. Matt would take the heat on himself. I don't know if it was a bad snap or not."

Injury updates -- Although a determination on whether tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) and cornerback Samari Rolle (shoulder) can play Sunday has not been made, it is clear that going on injured reserve is not an option for either player. "We've had those discussions with them," Billick said. "`Look, we're at the point in the season. Do you just want to go on IR?' Neither one of them are at that point. They want to play these last two games. So right now, that's where we'll proceed, and, hopefully, both will be available this week." Heap has missed eight of the past 10 games with a strained hamstring. Rolle, whose shoulder was in a sling after Sunday's loss to the Dolphins, has sat out the past two -- eight this season.

Back to Bruins? -- Offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel reportedly was interviewed by UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero on Friday for the Bruins' vacant head coach position.Neuheisel led the Bruins to a win in the 1984 Rose Bowl as a player and coached quarterbacks and wide receivers at UCLA for six years.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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