Ravens' passing game picks up in loss to Bengals

CINCINNATI - Those complaints regarding Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap's lack of involvement in the Baltimore Ravens' passing game might subside for a moment.In an outburst of spirals unheard of this fall from Ravens coach Brian Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh's game plans, Heap caught a game-high seven passes for 129 yards.It came in a losing cause, though, as Baltimore fell 34-26 to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

In last week's win over the Arizona Cardinals, Heap caught only one pass for two yards from rookie quarterback Kyle Boller."I think we made a few strides offensively," said Heap of an offense that entered this game ranked first in rushing and last in passing. "I think we can build on this. I think Kyle built some confidence in himself in seeing the plays that are there to be made."

Heap wasn't the lone beneficiary of Boller's strong arm. Travis Taylor caught four passes for 138 yards for two touchdowns, including a leaping 19-yard score to open the game and a 73-yard fly pattern in the fourth quarter. The former first-round draft pick dropped three passes last week against the Arizona Cardinals. "Obviously, the passing game and a win would be better, but it's a starting point," Taylor said. "If we get rid of the turnovers and false starts, we could really have something." 

Taylor's touchdown catches represent the Ravens' first scores through the air since a win over the San Diego Chargers. It doubled Boller's previous touchdown pass total. Boller entered the game with a 48.9 quarterback rating, the lowest in the league. He completed 15-of-27 passes for 302 yards with an interception for a 104.2 quarterback rating, but fumbled twice to set up Bengals' scores."We started out great that first drive," Boller said. "That's what we're capable of doing."I

NJURY UPDATE: Boller incurred a mild shoulder sprain in the fourth quarter. He was sacked four times as the Bengals blitzed liberally as Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis occasionally inserted safeties at linebacker." The guy kind of took me down and pile-drived me," Boller said. "I would be lying if I said I wasn't sore." Offensive guard Bennie Anderson injured his shoulder. Fullback Harold Morrow has a leg contusion. Nickel back Tom Knight aggravated a groin injury, but said it wasn't serious and he expects to play next week. Running back Jamal Lewis said his shoulder remains sore, but he doesn't consider himself to be injured or wearing down." It's not like it's dislocated or fractured," Lewis said. "It's a hurt, not an injury."

INACTIVES: Wide receiver Marcus Robinson's leg tightened up before kickoff and he was scratched from the lineup. The Ravens' other inactives: quarterback Anthony Wright, fullback Ovie Mughelli, cornerback Raymond Walls, defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, offensive tackle Damion Cook, wide receiver Ron Johnson (knee) and defensive end Riddick Parker.

STICKING TOGETHER: Veteran cornerback Corey Fuller huddled the defensive backs afterward and delivered a message about maintaining a sharp focus throughout the week.On Sunday, the Ravens' secondary allowed three touchdowns as Jon Kitna passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns."Obviously, it wasn't good enough for us to win the game," Fuller said.Fuller declined to make excuses for the defense having to work with a short field because of the offense's propensity toward turning the ball over."You're trying to get some disturbance going between us and the offense," Fuller said. "When you get on the field, we have to stop them, short field or not. When you have turnovers, it's going to be tough to win a game."

REVIVED PASS RUSH: Defensive end Tony Weaver collected his first two sacks of the season to break a drought that dated back to last December.His last sack prior to Sunday's game came against the Houston Texans. "It's very bittersweet," Weaver said. "Even though it had been a long time since I had got to the quarterback, I'll take zero sacks and a win anytime."

ROTATION: Orlando Brown is tired of rotating at right tackle with Ethan Brooks.Brown has the starting job, but doesn't like sharing repetitions because he said it disrupts his rhythm. Not to mention his ability to repeatedly beat on defensive linemen."It messes me up," Brown said. "It makes it harder to adjust. If they want me to do it, I got to do it."

QUOTABLE: Safety Ed Reed on the impact of the loss: "We can't hang our heads down. This is not the end of the world."

QUICK HITS: Rookie running back Musa Smith made his NFL debut on special teams, returning one short kickoff 15 yards. … Baltimore improved in the red zone, scoring on two of its three chances after last week's 0-for-4 showing. ... Wide receiver Dedric Ward played in Robinson's absence, but didn't catch a pass. … Inside linebacker Ed Hartwell had two sacks on blitzes to go with his team-high seven tackles. … The Ravens' kickoff for next Sunday's home game against the Denver Broncos will remain at 1 p.m.

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times


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