The last-place Ravens (2-7) are on life support following a 30-3 belt-whipping
that marks their eighth consecutive road loss and fourth loss in a row this
season as they haven't scored a touchdown in the last 11 quarters. It's the
worst start in franchise history, and the worst scoring offense in the league.
"The reality of the situation is that we're not a very good football team," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "Regardless of your playoff situation or not, it's all about pride now."
In his first game back from a toe injury incurred in the season opener, Boller was supposed to provide a spark for a stagnant offense. Instead, he regressed with three interceptions. His offensive line allowed him to become the Jaguars' tackling dummy with four sacks.
Boller was launched airborne by safety Gerald Sensabaugh on a sideline escape attempt. His hand was bloodied when he was sandwiched between defensive end Bobby McCray and defensive back Terry Cousin.
"I don't have the answers," Boller said. "It's just frustrating. For the most part, I felt in a rhythm. The game wasn't too big or too fast for me. It was football."
Boller appeared to stare down his reads, hearkening back to an alarming preseason. He finished 19 of 33 for 142 yards with no touchdowns for a 30.1 passer rating.
"There was a lot of pressure on him and he was under some tough circumstances," said pale and exhausted-looking Ravens coach Brian Billick. "Whether he's staring down the receiver or not, I don't have the level of expertise to be able to make that comment yet."
Boller completed his first eight passes, directing the Ravens to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on Matt Stover's 41-yard field goal.
However, the Ravens quickly unraveled. Boller nearly got Derrick Mason beheaded by safety Deon Grant when he lobbed a pass too high and too far. The hit parade continued for Boller, sack after sack after sack.
"Whether it cost us the game or not, it puts a damper on the frustration," center Mike Flynn said. "We wanted to get Kyle some time in his first game back and we didn't get the job done."
Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich sailed a 32-yard touchdown pass to rookie Matt Jones behind cornerback Chris McAlister. Free safety Will Demps was absent from the deep middle, biting on a play-action fake..
Frustration was the major sentiment as confusion and physical domination defined the Ravens' downfall.
"We're at a two-way street where we can go left and call it a season or we can decide to go right and fight until the end and play with some pride and dignity," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We've got to come together as a team and start living and dying for each other. We're having a hard time doing that."
After Baltimore fell behind 10-3 by halftime, Boller drove the Ravens down to the Jaguars' 15 in the third quarter with a crisp 35-yard spiral to Mason. Three plays later, Boller was picked off by Cousin in the end zone when he forced a throw to tight end Todd Heap instead of locating an open Mark Clayton.
"I thought I had Todd real quick and it was one of those that I tried to throw too early," Boller said. "I might have been able to get the ball to Clayton. I just forced it in there."
Jacksonville capitalized with a 92-yard drive capped by Greg Jones' touchdown run. It was set up by a 36-yard pass to Jones behind 38-year-old cornerback Deion Sanders.
The 17-3 advantage provided plenty of insurance. Especially against an offense that generated only 163 net yards (3.0 per play), 53 rushing yards (44 from Jamal Lewis) and eight first downs.
"I don't know if there's anyone out there that's as frustrated as we are," Heap said. "Trust me, this is our livelihood. It's not fun to only score three points."
Boller uncorked a final interception that middle linebacker Mike Peterson returned 26 yards for a touchdown with two minutes remaining.
"You'd think we were undefeated the way we practice," said Clayton, surprised by the struggles of a team with 15 former Pro Bowl selections.
With no playoff berth to pursue, the job security of Billick and several players will be debated for the next seven weeks.
"You have to look at yourself in the mirror and decide what kind of man you want to be," Boller said. "You have to ask yourself if you want to finish strong.
"If you don't want to do what it takes, then don't be out there because they're a lot of guys on this team that want to be out there."
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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