Tackling sub-par in win over Vikings

OWINGS MILLS -- Although shoddy tackling and missed defensive assignments were somewhat glossed over in the Baltimore Ravens' decisive win over the Minnesota Vikings, the breakdowns didn't escape the notice of coach Brian Billick.

Not only did the Ravens have a botched communication in the secondary as cornerback Chris McAlister stopped covering Travis Taylor on a touchdown pass, but the defense struggled to bring the Vikings down in the open field.

Whether it was linebacker Adalius Thomas' missed arm tackle on wide receiver Troy Williamson for a 56-yard gain or Tommy Polley, Bart Scott and Maake Kemoeatu failing to bring down running back Mewelde Moore on first contact, the defense wasn't up to its normal standard.

"The tackling was very disappointing," Billick said. "That was very uncharacteristic of us. One of the hard things to do is, how do we correct that? Normally, lets throw those pads on and let's go back at it. You can't do that going into your 16th game of the season.

"You really have to put it back on the players to bring a certain amount of focus to that. It just wouldn't be prudent to throw the pads back on and go through your tackling drills, which is what you really ought to do."

UP IN THE AIR: With one week left in the season, there's still no public word on whether Billick will be retained by owner Steve Bisciotti or if he'll be fired.

Under contract through 2007, Billick reiterated that he may have underestimated how many adjustments he needed to make in his management style.

"The industry says, ‘There's going to be a lull. How do you handle that? How do you change?'" Billick said. "That is something I need to do a better job at. I don't know that the last two years have adequately fit the change in the teams that I have had.

"So, I have failed them in that regard a little bit. I have to reevaluate that and see how I can better serve them to make sure that the vision I have for them is indeed their vision as opposed to, ‘This is the way I see it.'"
During the offseason last year after McAlister outlined a divided locker room, Billick traveled across the country to meet with team leaders and see how they felt about the working atmosphere. Now, many of those same players are uncertain what the future holds for their head coach or several players.

"We know there's likely to be changes, but we don't know exactly what's going to happen," tight end Todd Heap said. "If we keep playing like this, we can develop that camaraderie where they might not want to make as many changes and they'll know we can be successful together."

AGREE TO DISAGREE: When receiver Derrick Mason clearly trapped a pass, he wanted Billick to challenge the call with an instant-replay review. They exchanged heated words Sunday night when Billick refused to do so.

"It was, ‘Shut up and get back into the huddle because I saw it hit the ground,'" Billick said. "That sideline is an emotional place. Derrick is very emotional. Sometimes, you have to be emotional back.

"You don't have time in that situation.. ‘You know, Derrick, I think we ought to talk this over.' No, it's ‘Shut up and get back in the huddle.' He says whatever he wants back and then goes back in the huddle and does his job. I appreciate the passion."

Mason finished with nine catches for 103 yards, including the game-winning touchdown. Billick said they quickly put their disagreement behind them.

"After he caught the touchdown, he wanted to come back and give me the game ball," Billick said. "I don't know where he wanted me to put the game ball, but that is the way Derrick is and I enjoy having him here."

COMPLAINT: The Vikings lodged a complaint with an NFL official against the Ravens' 250-member band.

The Vikings' marketing director griped that the band violated a league rule that states music isn't supposed to be played while the play clock is running. He alleged that the band played until only a few seconds remained when the Vikings' offense had the ball.

"I was in Minnesota, in the Metrodome for seven years, I wouldn't talk a great deal about exterior noises," Billick said. "Whether the band is cranked up and they do a phenomenal job, I will leave that to the officials."

QUICK HITS: Running back Jamal Lewis' six-year, $35.5 million contract expires in a week, but he said it hasn't dawned on him that he might have played his final home game. "It didn't cross my mind," he said. … The Ravens expect to have return specialist B.J. Sams back for the season finale at Cleveland after he missed the Minnesota game with a knee injury. …The Ravens awarded game balls to Mason, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg and tight end Darnell Dinkins.

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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