Ravens, Boller readying for defenses stacking line

OWINGS MILLS - Jamal Lewis trampling over the Cleveland Browns is bound to cause a chain reaction beyond a waterfall of accolades. The Baltimore Ravens' running back broke the NFL single-game rushing mark with 295 yards in a 33-13 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.

While the display of muscle-flexing on the ground unfolded, an ineffectual passing game continued to unravel under rookie starting quarterback Kyle Boller.

Now, the offensive contrast is especially glaring. Baltimore (1-1) features the top-ranked running game in the league, but has the worst statistical passing game.

"I don't know that you can rely on a 300-yard rushing game every week because people are going to stack the box against us clearly, and we're going to have to be able to go outside," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We need to take pressure off the running game with the passing game. We have to look at that as an opportunity to make plays down the field."

Less than an hour after the football game, Boller was candidly aware that the Ravens are about to receive the box treatment from opposing defensive coordinators. Defenses will devote at least eight players to the line of scrimmage to try to contain Lewis' explosive running style. They will essentially dare Boller to throw it as Baltimore attempts to lean on a formula of a strong defense and running game.

"We've got to be able to throw the ball, especially in this league," Boller said. "They're going to load eight in the box, and we're going to have one-on-one on the outside and we're going to have to make plays. "It's going to be my job to get it there, and the receivers have to catch it. Hopefully after one of these games, they'll say, 'Man, they threw the ball real well.'"

Not just yet, though.

Boller completed seven of 17 passes for 78 yards against the Browns, setting a team record for least completions and tying the Ravens' record for lowest attempts. The rookie fumbled and threw an interception for a quarterback rating of 31.0 as his fundamentals and mechanics regressed.

Boller was throwing off his back foot when he short-armed an interception to Browns safety Earl Little instead of lofting it to a wide-open Marcus Robinson. "I need to get rid of this habit of aiming the ball," Boller said. "If I throw bad balls, the next time I'm thinking about the fundamentals and mechanics instead of reading the defense. I don't think I played very good. I think I played very poorly, to be honest."

The first-round draft pick was sacked three times and got his left leg and knee banged up enough to be replaced by Chris Redman, although Boller said he could have kept playing.

Redman immediately fumbled when he cocked his arm back to pass on his only attempt. "It happens," Billick said. "It's not by design. We don't practice that."

The quarterbacks' three turnovers led to all 13 of the Browns' points.

Baltimore ran the football 13 times with only one pass in the fourth quarter.

Through two games, Boller has passed for 240 yards for one touchdown, two interceptions, five sacks and a 50.0 quarterback rating. The former Cal star simply doesn't appear comfortable in the pocket. "I threw a lot of balls with no flex in my knees," Boller said. "I have to get back to good fundamentals, getting my knees bent and stepping into my throws vs. standing real tall and throwing with my arms."

Billick said it's simply a matter of the game slowing down for Boller by relaxing enough to correct his approach. "I think he got a little anxious and knew this was an opportunity to make some throws," Billick said. "I think he just rushed his fundamentals. He did some good things that we can build on. "He is learning from previous mistakes. He made a bunch on Sunday that he'll learn from and hopefully not make again."

A nicked-up Boller took hard shots to his shoulder, hip and thigh. He's beginning to slide to save himself needless pounding.

Offensive line coach Jim Colletto is already anticipating his blockers being crowded by extra defenders to block. He said that response is more of a compliment to Lewis, than an insult to Boller. "They're going to try to make any young quarterback beat you by throwing the ball," Colletto said. "Kyle will get better each time out. If Jamal stays healthy and we get him past the line of scrimmage, he's always got a chance. "The key is to make sure we block those extra people and throw the ball enough to keep them honest."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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