Ravens - Browns: More game notes

CLEVELAND -- Kyle Boller's charmed existence reverted back to normal in a shaky performance that seemed to create self-doubt on whether he'll be back as the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback next season. Following two strong games where he silenced critics, Boller struggled in a 20-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

With two interceptions and no touchdowns after tossing three touchdowns apiece in the previous two games, Boller wasn't nearly as confident as last week when he said he was certain he would be the starter in 2006.

"I hope so," Boller said when asked if he would be retained. "All I can do is my best and work my butt off and go along with the process. I can be a much better player and I will be."

In his previous two games, Boller was 70-percent accurate for 542 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 123.8 quarterback rating.

The Browns constantly pressured Boller and sacked him twice, limiting him to 15 of 36 passing for 151 yards and a 31.1 passer rating.

Safety Brian Russell intercepted Boller twice, including one with 58 seconds left to put the game away.

When asked if Boller regressed, Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "Sure, but just from the intensity of this game, not taking advantage of the momentum the way we have done the last month or so."

J. LEWIS UPDATE: Running back Jamal Lewis gained a gritty 89 yards on 20 carries, but doesn't think he played his final game in a Ravens uniform.

He expects Baltimore to probably retain him in February as its franchise player.

"I doubt it, but business is business," said Lewis when asked if he thought he wouldn't be back. "My agent hasn't talked to them since the beginning of the season. I got a feeling that they want to get things done with me. Like I said, the franchise tag is out there.

"I might have to take that hit. As long as I'm playing football next year, I'm happy."

Although Lewis finished with a career-low 906 yards and three touchdowns after a prison stint and ankle surgery, he felt that he dispelled talk that he wasn't running hard.

"That was a bunch of bull," Lewis said after concluding what he described as his most mentally draining season. "When you're losing, the finger got to be pointed at me. That's why I took the blame for it because I'm man enough to try to shut people up."

GUTTY PERFORMANCE: Browns rookie quarterback Charlie Frye took a beating from the Ravens in the first half and was sacked four times, but he rebounded strongly.

Frye threw a touchdown to Antonio Bryant and scrambled around enough to keep the Ravens off-balance, avoiding several near-sacks.

"We let a rookie quarterback get his confidence up," linebacker Tommy Polley said. "He escaped out of the pocket. We should have won this game."

Linebacker Terrell Suggs, who forced Frye to fumble in the second quarter for a turnover Adalius Thomas returned nine yards for a touchdown, partly blamed a muddy field and Frye's mobility.

"He's pretty elusive and the field gave him a lot of help," Suggs said. "He knew where he was going and we didn't know where we were going."

With Frye scrambling for extra time, the secondary could only cover for so long.

"The quarterback being mobile, you can't cover that long when the guy is running around from sideline to sideline," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "It's impossible."

SPECIAL-TEAMS ISSUES: The Ravens surrendered a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as Dennis Northcutt slipped past linebacker Adalius Thomas and reversed field for a touchdown.

Earlier in the second half, the Ravens' kickoff team allowed a 54-yard return to rookie Josh Cribbs to set up a touchdown.

"Everyone on the punt team and coverage teams could do a little better," punter Dave Zastudil said. "It's frustrating. I think we're a lot better on special teams than I think we showed."
In the first half, the Ravens were forced to abort a 22-yard Matt Stover field goal attempt when rookie long snapper Matt Katula botched the snap for the first time this year. Katula's errant snap pulled Zastudil a few yards off Stover's launch spot.

"That's very uncharacteristic of Matt," Zastudil said. "He's had a great year. He said his hand slipped on the ball."
QUICK HITS: Stover booted three field goals, giving him 1,593 points and moving him into eighth place on the NFL's career scoring list. … After Thomas' touchdown, he touched the name of general manager Ozzie Newsome (a Hall of Fame Browns tight end) on a wall behind the end zone. ... Linebacker Peter Boulware, the Ravens' career sack leader, registered his 70th sack in what might be his final game. ... The Ravens deactivated kicker Aaron Elling, wide receiver Patrick Johnson, quarterback Brian St. Pierre, cornerback Chris McAlister (shoulder/thigh), return specialist B.J. Sams (knee), linebacker Zac Woodfin, defensive end Bernard Thomas and wide receiver Clarence Moore.
 

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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