Boller's rough start impossible to overcome

CINCINNATI -- Kyle Boller slung his helmet to the ground in disgust, shaking his head, stomping his feet and staring at the ground near the bench.

The red-eyed display of frustration reflected his costly bumbles and stumbles. The struggling quarterback's early miscues were ultimately too glaring and too much to overcome in the Baltimore Ravens' 42-29 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Despite an aborted comeback attempt where Boller threw three touchdown passes in the second half, his erratic overall play kept Baltimore (3-8) from contending with first-place Cincinnati (8-3). The Ravens fell behind 34-0 early in the third quarter to lose their ninth consecutive road game.

Not only did Boller overthrow a wide-open Derrick Mason in the end zone on the Ravens' initial drive, he compounded that error by continually staring down his primary reads.

By the third quarter Boller had thrown two interceptions and could have uncorked as many as four if the Bengals' defense had better hands. He fumbled three times, recovering two, and had major problems with his footing on the damp artificial turf.
"The only way I can gauge it is I need to play a lot better," Boller said. "I can't play the way I did in order for this team to win. I've got to hit that throw. I can't turn the ball over. I take a lot of that on myself."

By halftime, Boller was 4 of 12 for 37 yards and a paltry 8.0 passer rating. He finished 18 of 32 for 211 yards and an 81.2 rating, with touchdown jump balls of 34 and 17 yards to tight end Todd Heap and lobbed it to Mason for a 28-yard score.

Cincinnati seemed to relax too much in the second half as Boller reformed his frenetic approach.

"I settled down a little bit," Boller said. "We were down 34-0, so what's there to worry about? That's how I need to play all the time, in that state of mind and play the game slow like that."

This is the first time Baltimore has been 3-8 since 1996, the Ravens' inaugural season after moving from Cleveland. It marks the first time the Bengals have swept the season series since that year.

Baltimore allowed 437 yards of total offense and didn't cross the Bengals' 35-yard line until the third quarter.

"No excuses, the mistakes were obvious," said an extremely loud Ravens coach Brian Billick. "I don't know that anyone outside our locker room can appreciate it, but I could not ask more than the way our guys responded to the circumstances.

"It was a loss, make no mistake. Are we clear on that? I'm not trying to make any excuses. Do you understand? In that context, I'm proud of the way we fought back."

The Ravens' injury-riddled secondary couldn't match up with Bengals receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. They combined for 14 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns. The defensive backs missed multiple tackles, and Samari Rolle didn't look the least bit aggressive in run support as Rudi Johnson rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

"It will be the same next week also against the Steelers," said Johnson, who unveiled an imaginative Tiger Woods impression after catching a 54-yard touchdown behind a flailing Dale Carter in the second quarter. "We just can't be covered."

With precise spirals, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 22 of 30 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns for a 124.6 passer rating.

"It's tough when you're up that much because you feel like the game's over," Palmer said. "The crowd kind of gets out of it and they just started licking their chops. We let it get out of control."

This was the most points the Ravens have surrendered since a 42-34 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 5, 1997.

What might have happened if Boller hadn't overthrown Mason?

"I don't have a crystal ball," Boller said. "I'm going to see it in my sleep over and over."

In the second quarter, Boller locked on to Mark Clayton and was intercepted by former Cal teammate Deltha O'Neal. In the third quarter looking for Mason, Boller regressed to a zero rating after an interception to suspect safety Ifeanyi Ohalete.

"The first ball was a bad ball," Boller said. "The second turnover, the coverage, I didn't see it."

As Houshmandzadeh fumbled and Deion Sanders intercepted Palmer, the Ravens scored three touchdowns in a span of four minutes and 49 seconds.

Jamal Lewis gained a season-high 113 yards and scored a touchdown in his first 100-yard game of the season with Chester Taylor unexpectedly out with a foot injury.

It wasn't nearly enough, though. The final outcome is essentially all that matters in the NFL.

"There are no moral victories in this league," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "It's disappointing because we're not winning right now.

"If we hang it up, we're not going to win any games. I know that guys aren't going to fold up. We have a lot of pride and are going to try to win regardless of our situation."

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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