Once McGahee was sidelined, sorry offense got even sorrier

ON THE RAVENS

December 24, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Seattle -- Before the game began, the Ravens had very little chance of beating the Seattle Seahawks, and any chance of an upset was eliminated by the end of the first quarter.

Ravens star running back Willis McGahee was knocked out of the game with two broken ribs with 3:14 left in the opening quarter.

The Ravens were already without several star players because of injuries, among them cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Ray Lewis, but this team couldn't afford to lose McGahee.

In a season in which the offense has been horrific, McGahee has been outstanding, rushing for more than 1,000 yards.

Most of those yards, though, have come on his own, with McGahee making his offensive line look better than it plays.

But with no running game yesterday, and the Ravens starting rookie quarterback Troy Smith for the first time, as well as the usual sorry offense, the Ravens weren't going to beat Seattle.

Actually, the Miami Dolphins had a better chance of knocking off the New England Patriots yesterday.

Why not try Finnerty?

Next up Cullen Finnerty.

He's the only quarterback on the Ravens' roster who hasn't played yet. In Baltimore, we're always trying to find the young, talented quarterback we can call our own.

You couldn't get a real good evaluation of Smith. Like Steve McNair and Kyle Boller before him, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State took a beating yesterday.

His statistics were OK but hardly Dan Marino-like. Until the Ravens change this system and the offensive linemen mature, they're wasting time.

So against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, I say go with Finnerty because the Ravens have already gotten three previous starters killed.

Helpful Hasselbeck

The Ravens ought to thank Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck because he played poorly enough to keep the Ravens around in the first half.

He threw some really bad passes and made some extremely poor decisions, especially for a player who has been in the NFL for nine years.

Until the league finds new talent at the quarterback position, teams will not narrow the gap between the Patriots' Tom Brady and the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and the rest of the passers.

Billick takes control

It was nice to see Ravens coach Brian Billick put rookie fullback Le'Ron McClain in his place after Nate Burleson returned a punt 32 yards early in the second quarter.

McClain apparently thought he was clipped or held on the play, and got in the face of an official.

Billick quickly ran out on the field and was very animated in his talk with McClain. Maybe we've seen the last of an out-of-control team.

Wrongfully flagged

That was a bad call by the official on Ravens linebacker Antwan Barnes late in the first half. Barnes was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he knocked Hasselbeck out of bounds.

But Hasselbeck was definitely trying to make more yards tiptoeing down the sideline, and Barnes did tackle him around the ankles.

But after the bad year the Ravens have had with officials, you knew Barnes was going to get nailed as soon as he got within a sniff of Hasselbeck on the sideline.

Put Yanda at guard

After watching rookie Marshal Yanda play right offensive tackle the past couple of games, I'm convinced more than ever that he is a guard and not a tackle.

To play tackle, Yanda has to either increase the speed of his feet or the length of his arms. Those speed rushers on the outside just have too much quickness for him.

Playbook deletion

Here's a suggestion for Billick: Kill the waggle play.

The Ravens tried to run it twice, maybe three times yesterday, and each time the Seahawks squatted on the route by receiver Derrick Mason.

It's time to put it away in the playbook until next year.

And, while we're on the subject of Mason, no more Michael Jackson dancing in the end zone after a touchdown when your team is losing 27-0.

What's up with that?

No no-huddle a no-no

Despite trailing 21-0 at the half, the Ravens didn't come out in the second half with a no-huddle approach to jump-start their offense.

Even more surprising, they punted from the Seattle 46 on a fourth-and-four with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.

Why not go for it because you have nothing to lose? Billick declined, despite Mason's urging.

But after Mason caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from Smith with 4:41 left in the game, Billick ordered an onside kick that failed, but he also started using the no-huddle.

If I didn't know better, it's as if he didn't care until Mason scored.

"You never second-guess your coach," Mason said. "When he makes his decision, whether it's right or wrong, you go with it."

Spoken like a true politician.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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