Billick takes issue with criticism

OWINGS MILLS - Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick took issue with a mild chorus of boos emanating from the stands for his decision to have quarterback Kyle Boller kneel down before halftime on Sunday. The Ravens were leading the Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-3, with the football at their own 6-yard line with 31 seconds remaining in the first half of a 24-17 win at M&T Bank Stadium.

"As conservative as that may be, I wanted to get out of the half with the ball in our hands," Billick said. "There was a thought process in mind, whether you agree or disagree with it. "I understand the boos at the end of the half were at me, and I'm fine with that. When you boo this young team, that doesn't help. Those young guys don't know that you're booing at me."

Billick also defended and detailed his decision to have Boller throw a deep pass to tight end Todd Heap on 2nd-and-9 at the Ravens' 41 in the fourth quarter instead of handing the football to Jamal Lewis to run down the clock with 2:30 remaining.

The pass fell incomplete. Two plays later, Jacksonville had possession and almost drove all the way down the field before Ray Lewis intercepted Byron Leftwich to seal the win. "I told Matt [Cavanaugh] if we don't get anything on first down, I want a vertical shot and I want a safe vertical shot that, if it's a turnover, it's like a punt down the field," Billick said. "I understand the criticism that at the end of the first half I'm too conservative and at the end of the game, I was being too risky."

CORNERBACK SHUFFLE: Gary Baxter shifted over to cornerback from free safety in place of injured veteran Corey Fuller in Sunday's win. He produced nine tackles. Fuller emphasized Monday that his strained groin and hamstring feel strong and he's primed to return.

Billick hinted toward Baxter possibly remaining at cornerback this week against the St. Louis Rams depending upon Fuller's health.

"Corey is an asset for us at corner, but he has to be healthy and fresh, especially at this point in his career," Billick said. "If he is at 60, 70 or 80 percent and can go only 30-40 snaps, we have to think more long-term and may have to stay in that configuration.

"That is a lot on Gary, but we will always have the best four secondary guys on the field. Right now, that would include Corey Fuller when he is healthy."

LONG DRIVES: Jacksonville built a time of possession advantage of 34:53 to 25:07 with sustained drives primarily in the first half. By halftime, the Jaguars had rushed for 105 yards on 20 carries by controlling the clock for 20:44. A drive that ended in a field goal lasted 14 plays.

"What's the old thing?" Billick said. "You're conflicted about your mother-in-law driving off a cliff in your Mercedes. 'Boy, God, I love you guys that they didn't score, but 21 minutes in the first half?'

"The way they ran the ball was a concern. Ultimately, the defense stiffened and they got the job done. We didn't tackle very well. We'll address it."

RECOGNIZED: Billick awarded game balls to running back Chester Taylor, whose 29-yard touchdown run gave the Ravens a 24-10 lead, along with return specialist Lamont Brightful and defensive end Tony Weaver.

Regaining his old role when Dedric Ward was deactivated because of Fuller's absence, Brightful returned three kickoffs for 101 yards. Weaver sacked Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich for a forced fumble that he recovered to set up a score.

QUOTABLE: Billick on his football team's upcoming game against the pass-oriented Rams: "It's going to be 'Old-School' vs. 'The Greatest Show on Turf.'"

QUICK HITS: Ray Lewis' tackles were reduced to 12 after being credited with 14 on Sunday. He leads Baltimore with 114 tackles. … Reserve linebacker Bart Scott substituted for safety Chad Williams (lower back strain) in the dime package.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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