Ravens lose to Eagles 20-14 in preseason

BALTIMORE – Battered, befuddled and often brutally inept, quarterback Kyle Boller cast more doubt on his competency and the outlook of the Baltimore Ravens' passing game. Boller stared down his primary reads and threw into heavy traffic for the second week in a row, and the resulting turnovers were fairly predictable.

In a 20-14 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium, Boller hesitated and pushed his throwing motion rather than uncorking spirals.

The third-year quarterback threw a pair of interceptions in the first half, lost a fumble and almost got wide receiver Derrick Mason decapitated by Eagles middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter as he led him too far on a dangerous throw over the middle.

"It's probably my worst quarter and half in the NFL," said Boller, who finished 10 of 15 for 88 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 64.7 quarterback rating.

Boller wasn't alone in raising the ire of Ravens coach Brian Billick, who had plenty to be upset about considering the special teams allowed a touchdown and the defense's tackling was substandard.

"Terrible, it's got to be a lot better," Billick said. "We made mistakes, mental mistakes. We weren't as physical. I knew it in the warm-ups.

"I just didn't see the intensity that we had before. We've got to address it. It's not how you start. It's how you finish."

Even with controversial All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens not in town because of a groin injury, the Eagles' first-string offense generated 169 yards and 17 points in the first half.

For the record, the Eagles' starters defeated the Ravens' starters 17-0.

Meanwhile, the NFL's 31st-ranked passing game from last year doesn't appear to be making much progress despite the additions of Mason, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, first-round wide receiver Mark Clayton and offensive coordinator Jim Fassel.

With the exception of a crisp drive against the Eagles' backups for a late first-half touchdown, Boller struggled markedly as he continues to work without running back Jamal Lewis (ankle) and tight end Todd Heap (ankle, shoulder).

Boller did complete all five of his attempts for 46 yards on a second-quarter drive he capped with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox in the corner of the end zone.

It was a much different story for Boller in the first quarter against the Eagles' starters. He began the game 3-for-7 for 22 yards, two interceptions and an 11.3 quarterback rating.

"Glad we finished strong on that last drive, because the start wasn't very good," Boller said. "We needed a comeback for our confidence, and we were able to do it."

Minutes after the opening kickoff, Boller and Wilcox didn't appear to be on the same page.

Working out of the shotgun, Boller sailed the football way ahead and above Wilcox's vicinity directly into the hands of strong safety Michael Lewis.

Later in the quarter, Eagles cornerback Dexter Wynn ran through Devard Darling's arm-tackle attempt and juked punter Dave Zastudil for a 74-yard punt return touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The first interception Boller threw appeared to be somewhat explainable as perhaps Wilcox didn't run the expected route. The second was much more questionable.

Throwing off his back foot under heavy pressure, Boller threw into the heart of the secondary looking for Clarence Moore and was picked off by Pro Bowl free safety Brian Dawkins on a short-armed throw.

"We got off to a rough start," said Fassel, whose major bright spot again was running back Chester Taylor (47 yards on 15 carries). "They got some pressure on us and we made some mistakes. We weren't in sync until the drive in the second quarter. It was good to see Kyle bounce back after the rough start."

The Ravens' defense salvaged the situation as cornerback Samari Rolle intercepted Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb on the ensuing drive. Rolle left the game with a mild knee sprain and didn't return.

However, Baltimore didn't capitalize on the turnover as the offense went three-and-out again for the second time.

McNabb eluded defensive end Tony Weaver's grasp on a 27-yard scramble, sliding to the turf with middle linebacker Ray Lewis closing in.

Three plays later, McNabb dumped the football off to running back Brian Westbrook on a crossing pattern. Safety Chad Williams, Lewis and Chris McAlister all missed open-field tackles as Westbrook coasted into the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

"We're all disappointed with the Westbrook touchdown," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "He came loose, he was free. That's a mistake we can't have. It shouldn't happen. Give McNabb some credit. He handled our pressure well and made some throws."

Added Ray Lewis: "I think our defense is always ready and we had a couple three-and-outs, but we could be better. We can't have a play like they had on the touchdown when we play the Colts. The guy came free. Rex and the coaches will fix that."

After the Eagles' second touchdown, Boller hung the football in the air to Mason, who was nailed by Trotter for an incompletion. Then, Boller was struck on a blitz by an untouched Michael Lewis with the fumble recovered by Michael Patterson. The turnover set up David Akers' 45-yard field goal and a 17-0 lead.

"Those guys are getting all the media hype and it's well-deserved," Michael Lewis said of the Ravens' defense, "but we've got some playmakers on our side of the ball as well."

Following the field goal, Eagles coach Andy Reid took his starters out while Billick left his first-string in the game.

In the second half, quarterback Anthony Wright led the Ravens on a scoring drive capped by running back Tellis Redmon's short touchdown run. Wright completed all six of his passes for 68 yards and a 113.9 rating in the third quarter.

Wright led the reserves on a fourth-quarter drive that ended on an overthrown pass to Darling.

After Wilcox's touchdown, Norton blocked Akers' field goal try and Ed Reed scooped up the loose football and lateraled it to McAlister for a 60-yard touchdown return that was overturned after an instant-replay review.

Officials eventually ruled that it was a forward lateral to McAlister.

"My opinions of replays are well-documented," Billick said. "I can't afford the 15 grand again."
 

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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