Boller calms down mechanics and gets results

OWINGS MILLS -- This wasn't the erratic, frenzied Kyle Boller whose miscues were so glaring a week ago that Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick said he would consider sending the oft-criticized quarterback to see a sports psychologist. This was an entirely new persona and performance for Boller, one defined by calmness and awareness, not panic and confusion.

Inside the huddle, calling audibles at the line of scrimmage and delivering crisp spirals in a blowout win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, Boller had a completely different demeanor. It was a stark contrast to the desperation the 2003 first-round draft pick displayed in a loss to the Denver Broncos the previous week.

In the Ravens' 48-3 win over Green Bay that set a franchise record for points scored, touchdowns (six) and margin of victory, Boller calmed down his mechanics and outshined an ineffective Brett Favre. Now, the question is: Can Boller play two good games in a row?

"Anytime he has a smile on his face in the huddle and we're actually moving the ball, of course, it's a different demeanor," said tight end Todd Heap, one of Boller's closest friends on the team, after the most lopsided victory in Monday Night Football history. "When he's making throws the way he was and all of us were making plays for him, of course he's going to have a totally different attitude and a totally different mindset toward every play. I think he was confident."

The results for Boller were three touchdown passes and career-highs of 70.4 percent accuracy (19 of 27) and a 136.8 passer rating. Most importantly, he didn't commit a turnover following two flagrant red-zone interceptions and an open-field fumble in Denver where he wasn't touched.

Except for a fumbled snap that he recovered there were no traces of the clumsiness he flashed in Denver.

"I made better decisions," Boller said. "Overall in the Denver game, I really made some bad decisions. I felt this game I was going to go out and just play really relaxed and smooth and let the game come to me.

"Instead of forcing and trying to make plays, all I had to do was get the ball in my guys' hands and let them make plays. It means a lot especially with what I've been going through."

However, the performance doesn't assure Boller of a starting job beyond this season. His audition for 2006 is ongoing, and Billick reiterated Tuesday that he won't weigh this performance over any other.

"It's another game, another set of data to draw from," Billick said. "This one obviously very positive, that's why it's important he follows it up with another one. It will be taken in the cumulative and be factored in, trying not to weigh any one incident more than another.

"Kyle stepped up, it was his time to do it. Again, can you follow up a good game with another good game? It's all of part of that, ‘Let's take the next step and see where we are.' .. I think he showed a lot of mental discipline to overcome [Denver] and all that came with it over the last week and the observations."

Afterward, fans chanted Boller's name. In the opening game of the season, some fans cheered when he injured his right big toe.

"It's a step forward," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "He's just got to continue to build off this."

Billick pointed out that Boller's fundamentals were much improved and that he demonstrated the savvy to change blitz protections and plays, including in key red-zone situations.

In particular, Boller adjusted to the Packers blitzing twice as much as they usually do. He wasn't sacked.

"It showed he was in command of the game," Billick said. "He was much more fundamentally sound, calmer in the pocket that allowed him to make the better throws that he made.

"There were two or three plays that were specific checks that, ‘No, this is different. I'm going to check to this and take advantage of it.' That was great to see him do that."

While the landmark game hasn't guaranteed Boller anything more than two more games to leave an impression with the organization, it may represent a significant moment for both his confidence and his credibility in the locker room.

"There may have been speculation about people saying this or saying that, but my teammates have been behind me through everything," Boller said. "I can't tell you how much that kept me going, guys pushing me and keeping my confidence up."

For a quarterback that had been widely labeled as a bust locally and nationally, this outing may have done a lot to repair his reputation. Tha is, unless it's a one-week aberration.

"We've always had our faith in Kyle, that's never been a question," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I hope it boosts his confidence and lets him know that you are here for a reason, you can play. Go out there and play and have fun."


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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