Ravens' Boller plays through pain in win

BALTIMORE - Although Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Kyle Boller didn't have anything close to a glittery statistical line, he did earn a few respectful nods. In a 26-6 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday built around the Ravens' defense and running game, Boller committed no turnovers and played through the pain of a sprained, non-throwing shoulder.

Boller was in obvious discomfort throughout the game, but completed 15 of his 27 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and an 81.9 quarterback rating. The first-round draft pick was sacked twice, but said he didn't aggravate it further against Denver. "Coming into the game, it was pretty sore," Boller said. "I'll continue to ice it and, hopefully, it will feel better, but that's just part of the game. It didn't slow me down much, but, yes, it did hurt."

Boller's season totals are up to 982 yards and five touchdowns with seven interceptions having completed 95-of-179 passes for a 62.2 quarterback rating. Last week, he had three turnovers in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. "Kyle gets my tough-guy award this week," receiver Frank Sanders said. "He was taking all kinds of shots. You've got to take your hat off to that young guy."

DROUGHT BROKEN: Partly because of his versatility and opponents' blocking, Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Peter Boulware had been held without a sack until Sunday.
Boulware picked up two sacks on Sunday against the Broncos as defensive coordinator Mike Nolan used him much more extensively at rush end. Boulware's sacks forced two fumbles and led to 24 yards of losses. The Ravens' all-time sack leader hadn't had one since collecting two last December against the Cleveland Browns. After the first game of the season, Boulware's sack of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox was ruled a quarterback draw by the Elias Sports Bureau. "Our offense did their job in getting the lead and it really helps you out in the pass rush," Boulware said. "We were excited to get a chance to rush."

SHUTDOWN: Denver coach Mike Shanahan has a mastermind reputation and a resume that includes two Super Bowl rings. His offense was completely stymied, though, by the Ravens as journeyman quarterback Danny Kanell led an anemic attack. Denver generated only 194 yards on 60 offensive plays for an average of 3.2 yards per attempt. Kanell threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter that helped seal the game for Baltimore. "Obviously, right now we are not a good offensive football team," Shanahan said. Shanahan also ordered an ill-advised 4th-and-1 attempt in the first half.

Kanell stumbled on his quarterback sneak attempt and was stopped short of the first-down marker by nose guard Kelly Gregg. Then, the Ravens marched 41 yards on 11 plays to set up Matt Stover's 25-yard field goal. "That probably was not a smart move on my part," Shanahan said. "I just thought with a few inches and not fumbling we could get it done. I've always been a gambler and took some risks, but if I had to do it all over again, I would probably call a different play."

INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Corey Fuller injured his hamstring in the second half and didn't return. He was replaced by Gary Baxter, who shifted over from free safety and intercepted a pass. Denver linebacker John Mobley bruised his spinal cord when he collided with teammate Kelly Herndon with 1:37 remaining in the first half.
Mobley was examined at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where X-rays revealed no broken bones. He regained full feeling in his arms and legs after experiencing tingling sensation in his hands. Because of swelling around Mobley's spinal cord, the Broncos opted to have him stay overnight in the hospital and not fly back with the rest of the team Sunday night.

INACTIVES: The Ravens ruled out quarterback Anthony Wright, cornerback Tom Knight (groin), fullback Ovie Mughelli, cornerback Raymond Walls, offensive tackle Damion Cook, wide receiver Ron Johnson (knee), defensive end Riddick Parker and defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu.

ALTERCATION: After Boulware's sack and forced fumble in the second quarter, offensive tackle Matt Lepsis attempted to chop-block Ray Lewis downfield. Following a brief wrestling match, Lewis lectured Lepsis.  Lepsis was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was ejected from the game after shoving an official trying to break up the skirmish.
"I'm not going to say I play clean football, but I play between the whistles," Lewis said. "The play was clearly over. He's 15 yards downfield and just went at me. I literally went and told him, 'Hey, it's football. Don't try to blow my knees out.' He wants to respond with other words."

DEBUT: Dedric Ward replaced Lamont Brightful as the Ravens' return specialist for the first time. Ward returned three punts for 26 yards, including a long return of 16 yards. He also returned one kickoff for 20 yards. Brightful was forced into action at defensive back in Baltimore's nickel package because of Fuller's injury. He recorded one tackle in the fourth quarter.

MILESTONE: Sanders caught three passes for 21 yards, catching his 500th pass of his career.
"What a blessing," Sanders said. "I have been anticipating it for the last three to four days, the last three to four games actually."

ROTATION: Offensive tackle Orlando Brown said he didn't mind splitting time with Ethan Brooks one week after complaining about the substitution pattern. Offensive line coach Jim Colletto also inserted Casey Rabach at right guard for Bennie Anderson. "We were wearing them down together," Brown said. "You could see them getting tired. We switched it up on them and they couldn't handle it."

QUICK HITS: Todd Heap caught three passes for 54 yards despite having two receptions negated by the Broncos' instant replay challenges. Heap has a team-high 27 receptions for 345 yards. … The Ravens improved to 17-9 under Brian Billick following losses. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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