Billick behind Boller all the way

OWINGS MILLS – Instead of steamrolling over embattled quarterback Kyle Boller, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick swerved the proverbial blame bus and left treadmarks across the team and himself.

Boller unraveled and regressed markedly during the Ravens' 20-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once.

Even the third-year quarterback called it his worst performance ever, which says a lot considering the Ravens finished 31st in passing last season. Billick threw Boller a verbal life preserver Monday in a concerted effort to deflect heavy criticism against his hand-chosen starter.

"If you want to arbitrarily blame someone, then blame me," Billick said. "This young man has played well. He did not play well the other night. If you want to throw some guys under the bus, there's some pretty high names on the list that you're not going to want to have go down that way, either.

"Kyle has to play well, no question about it. We need to play better around Kyle and I'm confident we will."

Meanwhile, backup Anthony Wright completed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards with no turnovers. Wright declined to comment, but represents the Ravens' major fallback option if Boller doesn't settle down and continues to play this way in the regular season.

Changing quarterbacks would mean the investment of two first-round draft picks and millions of dollars on Boller had been a mistake. The organization seems to be sticking behind Boller.

Cataloguing miscues without specifically naming names, Billick noted that Boller was hit on four of the first eight times he tried to throw. He said that running backs, tight ends and offensive linemen missed assignments to contribute to Boller's shaky performance.

"Make no mistake, Kyle's responsible for how he reacted," Billick said. "He could have mitigated some of it, he could have helped himself through it a little bit.

"I do think he responded, kept his cool. Everybody has accountability in the initial sequences of what happened the other night."

In 10 passes against the Eagles' starters, Boller was under pressure five times. The results of three turnovers and a sack were fairly predictable.

What isn't as explainable is why Boller didn't simply throw it away or just take the sack, or why he only performed better once Eagles coach Andy Reid took his starters out and completed all five passes on a scoring drive.

A few of Boller's major drawbacks are his tendency to stare down his primary read, hold on to the football too long and throw off his back foot when pressured. All of those weaknesses were evident Saturday.

Through two preseason losses, Boller has completed 15 of 24 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 53.6 quarterback rating.

When asked if his confidence had been affected, Boller replied: "You've got to be confident at this position. You can never doubt yourself. If I go out next week and be hesitant and don't make throws because you don't want to throw an interception – you can't play it that way at this position."

On his initial interception, Boller watched running back Chester Taylor and tight end Daniel Wilcox bunch together. While backing up instead of setting his feet in the pocket, he sailed the throw directly to Eagles safety Michael Lewis.

"I didn't know what to do with it," Boller said. "It was one where I tried to hold it as long as I could. I let it go, and I threw it right to the safety. It just took off on me."

Boller followed up that interception by again throwing off his back foot while under heavy pressure from middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. His short-armed throw never came close to Clarence Moore as safety Brian Dawkins picked it off.

"The guy in my face hit my arm," Boller said. "It was out of my control."

Boller definitely appears to be pressing, trying too hard to make plays instead of playing the way he's coached.

"I'm going to continue to talk to him," two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "He just needs to calm down a little bit. He wants to make a play so bad sometimes. He needs to stay composed like the player he is."

Mason suggested that the entire unit needs to adopt a more aggressive approach.

"We've got to have the mentality of our defense, we can't let one bad series affect the whole game," Mason said. "We need to be nasty on offense."

The Ravens' passing game doesn't appear to be improving quickly despite adding Mason, Mark Clayton, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel.

"I've got to be able to look at this tape and figure out the problem," Boller said. "It was mistakes that can't happen, especially at this level."

NOTE: The Ravens are interested in former Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch along with the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears, according to published reports. It's more likely that Couch, who has a history of shoulder problems, will wind up elsewhere.

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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