QBs bobble chance in win

Ravens 16 Patriots 15

Boller, Flacco hampered by turnovers in preseason opener

August 08, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - New coach. New offensive system. Same old bad habits from Kyle Boller.

In last night's 16-15 preseason win over the New England Patriots, Boller tarnished an otherwise strong effort with two turnovers at Gillette Stadium, creating flashbacks of mistakes that have haunted him throughout his career.

"I don't want to turn the ball over," said Boller, who lost a fumble and was intercepted once. "That is the most important thing. I think we had some good plays [and] a few solid drives, but we have to continue to work on not turning the ball over."

Receiving the start in the preseason opener, Boller could have taken the lead in the Ravens' quarterback competition without the turnovers. In five series, the first-round pick in 2003 completed 11 of 15 passes (which included two drops) for 102 yards.

But Boller fumbled on the second possession of the game when former Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas slapped the ball loose. Then, in the second quarter, Boller was intercepted by Shawn Crable, who jumped in front of tight end Adam Bergen.

Turnovers were the main reason Boller failed to hold on to the starting job under former coach Brian Billick. Some wondered whether Boller would find success under new coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but the sixth-year quarterback couldn't shake his old problems last night.

"Kyle did some really good things," Harbaugh said. "There are a couple of plays he wants back, but I felt he did a good job moving our offense."

Boller moved the Ravens down the field at the start of the game, throwing completions of 21, 12 and 16 yards. That led to Matt Stover's 42-yard field goal.

On the next series, Boller showed great composure, calling a timeout with three seconds left on the play clock to avoid a delay-of-game penalty on third-and-four. But after the timeout, Boller fumbled while stepping up in the pocket.

Even though Boller worked with the starting offense, he didn't have the regular supporting cast. Nearly half of the projected offensive starting lineup didn't dress because of injury - running back Willis McGahee, tight end Todd Heap, receiver Mark Clayton, tackles Jared Gaither (Maryland) and Adam Terry.

Still, New England was missing three starters in the secondary and played a vanilla cover-two defense for most of the first half.

"Kyle did OK," Cameron said. "He was in control and was sharp at times. He'll be fine, and he knows better than anyone that we have to protect the ball."

Despite Boller's turnovers, the Ravens controlled the game against the Tom Brady-less Patriots because of defense and special teams.

The Ravens held New England to 85 total yards in the first half, and newcomer Fabian Washington intercepted two passes, including one at the Ravens' 9-yard line.

"I guess Fabian Washington was worth that fourth-rounder Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] gave up," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said.

The big spark of the night game from Yamon Figurs, who returned a punt 52 yards in the second quarter. That set up fullback Le'Ron McClain's 1-yard touchdown run, extending the Ravens' lead to 10-0.

New England converted Boller's interception into a 36-yard field goal, cutting the margin to 10-3.

Troy Smith, who replaced Boller after the second turnover, threw a 30-yard pass to Darnerien McCants (Arundel), which eventually led to Stover's 44-yard field goal and a 13-3 halftime lead.

Smith, who worked the entire third quarter, finished 5-for-12 for 74 yards.

First-round quarterback Joe Flacco took over with 9:33 left, and on his second play, he had the ball stripped from behind, which led to a 1-yard touchdown run by LaMont Jordan (Maryland).

The Patriots went for a two-point conversion, but linebacker Edgar Jones knocked down the pass to preserve the Ravens' 16-15 lead.

Flacco did not complete a pass on three attempts. His final throw was batted down, ending a drive at the New England 9.

After the game, linebacker Ray Lewis presented the game ball to Harbaugh in the locker room.

"Coach, from men to a real man, this is for you," Lewis told Harbaugh. "Thanks for getting us ready."

Said Harbaugh: "What a thrill it was to be the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens and be in front of this group of men. It's an honor to be part of this organization now."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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