Undefeated Ravens: 'It's not pretty'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Although Steve McNair ultimately built another section for his den of lore with another calm, patented comeback, the usually laidback quarterback also demonstrated his edgy side. Frustrated with his most erratic first half since joining the Baltimore Ravens, McNair tossed his helmet against the bench following a stalled drive.

As composed as he looked during an authoritative touchdown drive in the final minute to lead Baltimore to an unprecedented 4-0 mark and atop the AFC North standings, McNair was far from satisfied with the state of the offense.
"It's not an exciting offensive ballclub, but we get the job done," McNair said. "That's what we have to believe in. The scary thing about it is we haven't played offensively half the way we could play. If we could play up to our potential, it's scary how good this ballclub could be."
McNair completed only 5 of 12 passes for 25 yards in the first half as the Ravens managed just 45 yards of total offense and fell behind 13-7.
Besides McNair's pair of interceptions, including a missed read that led to his easy pop fly to cornerback Quentin Jammer, he tripped over center Mike Flynn.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection finished the game, though, with 4 of 5 accuracy on the final drive for 45 yards in addition to a 12-yard scramble.
"He fits in with this team," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "It's not always pretty, but it's been effective. He doesn't panic. That's huge.
"His confidence spreads through everyone else. The guy has been through the battles."
When Ravens coach Brian Billick congratulated McNair after his 10-yard touchdown strike to tight end Todd Heap with 34 seconds remaining, he didn't find a jubilant passer.
"I went up to Steve, kind of patted him on the back and he said, ‘We got to get this first half figured out, I've got to play better in the first half,' putting it squarely on his shoulders," Billick said. "We all need to play a better half. I need to coach a better half as well."
It was the second consecutive week that a sputtering offense awakened just in time to win the game.
This time, McNair drove the Ravens 60 yards with no timeouts against the top-ranked defense in the league.
Baltimore fell behind 14-3 against the Cleveland Browns, but McNair completed 6 of 9 passes for 52 yards to set up kicker Matt Stover for the game-winning field goal.
In the fourth quarter, the Ravens have outscored their opponents 38-3.
"It's unbelievable what you can do when you have confidence," Heap said. "It was a roller coaster of a ride. It's more of a calm sense in the huddle that you notice when we're in there even when it's two minutes to go and the crowd is probably booing because we are getting in the huddle."
With a 75.4 passer rating, McNair is the 24th-rated quarterback in the league.
The Ravens haven't had a strong running game, either. They rank 23rd in the NFL with 95.8 rushing yards per game with starter Jamal Lewis coming off a 34-yard performance on 15 carries. Only four teams -- Houston, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Oakland -- rank lower in total offense than Baltimore, which is averaging 270.2 yards per game.
However, the Ravens' perfect record separates them from that lowly pack.
"It isn't pretty," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We all found a way to win the game as opposed to last year we never did find a way to win the games."
A harsh grader, Mason gave the Ravens an ‘F' after a 28-6 win over the Raiders that was marred by several red-zone failures. This time, it's not much higher.
"It's still a C," he said. "The only reason I give it a C is because we found a way to win the game at the end. I can't give it a D because we passed."
It's still a world of difference in terms of the feeling in the hallways of the Ravens' training complex compared to last year when the team got off to a 1-3 start that began a season-long debate about Billick's job security.
"It feels a lot different at 4-0 than any of the other alternatives," Billick said. "The attitude of this league, the sense of panic that every team experiences, that ‘Oh my god, what are we going to do now?,' we're not having to fight through it right now. So, that's a positive."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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