Ravens edged by Bills in preseason debut

BALTIMORE - In regards to the final outcome of this debut, the Baltimore Ravens ultimately lost the football game to the Buffalo Bills. The 20-19 defeat occurred despite a stalwart last-minute effort from rookie quarterback Kyle Boller.

Boller threaded a perfect spiral to Randy Hymes for a touchdown in the closing seconds, but his subsequent two-point conversion attempt to Hymes was batted away as Baltimore lost its preseason opener Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

In terms of actual competition with the Bills' headliners, the Ravens achieved a stalemate with a tie score against the starters through one quarter.

Boller definitely distinguished himself in the second half as he completed 10 of his 21 passes for 124 yards for a rating of 82.2.

Yet, the coaching staff will have to include the caveat of factoring in that the first-round pick from Cal was playing against the Bills' reserves.

Buffalo's Antonio Brown's 87-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter nearly put Baltimore away. Minutes later, Boller executed a textbook two-minute drill.

When it came to the major story line for the Ravens, there were a few significant revelations about Baltimore's competing quarterbacks.

Incumbent Chris Redman started his first game since undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc and delivered a solid, albeit unspectacular performance.

Most importantly, Redman stood up promptly after being crunched in the first quarter between Bills defensive linemen Pat Williams and Aaron Schobel. "It felt great to be on the field again," Redman said. "I didn't even think about it when I got hit. It felt normal."

Redman completed five of his eight passes for 55 yards with an interception created by receiver Marcus Robinson allowing an accurate pass to deflect off his hands to Bills cornerback Nate Clements.

"I saw some efficiency," said Ravens coach Brian Billick in reference to Redman, who compiled a 43.2 quarterback rating. "The interception was not Chris' fault. It was a hell of an interception. I thought he was fairly efficient. "We made mistakes that will cost you a game. Fortunately, they're learning situations right now."

Boller generated applause for his arm strength on a deep pass to tight end Trent Smith as he played the entire second half. He also demonstrated his mobility in escaping the Bills' pass rush. Meanwhile, veteran quarterback Anthony Wright hurt his cause with a sloppy second quarter of work.

Smith's rookie season may have been derailed as he broke his tibia after his 39-yard catch and was scheduled to undergo surgery Saturday night in Baltimore.

Wright completed 7-of-11 passes for 75 yards, but failed to look off linebacker Carlos Polk on an interception as he stared down intended target Ron Johnson. His rating: 45.6

"Anthony's got to be smarter with the linebacker sitting in the hole," Billick said. "He had some other options, and he'll have to learn from it."

Collectively, the Ravens' passing game missed the presence of Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap.

In directing the Ravens to their only touchdown, Redman identified a Buffalo defensive breakdown and found tight end Terry Jones by himself for a 19-yard reception to the Bills' 3-yard line.

Two plays later, running back Jamal Lewis rumbled off of the blocks of fullback Alan Ricard and right guard Bennie Anderson for a 1-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

"Ricard made a great block and my tackle was my read," Lewis said. "The hole opened up and I hit it. It was a textbook play, and we rolled with it."

However, Buffalo answered after Redman's interception, tying the score as Olandis Gary dove over the top of the Ravens' defensive line. Baltimore failed to substitute in its goal line package following a penalty on defensive end Adalius Thomas for illegal use of the hands.

"We had the wrong call on the touchdown," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "We were in a regular defense and we should have had bigger people in. There was a miscommunication on where the officials would mark the ball."

One defensive question mark was answered rather emphatically as linebacker Ray Lewis tackled forcefully in his first game back since shoulder surgery last winter.

The Ravens went 5-6 in his absence and 7-9 overall, finishing third in the AFC North last season.

"It felt so good to get out there and have some contact again," Lewis said. "That is what I worked for so hard in the offseason."

NOTE: Ravens defensive end Nate Bolling generated three sacks in the second half.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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