Ravens' report card

Scout.com reviews the Baltimore Ravens as they head into their season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers:


Willis McGahee will not play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers because of fractured ribs, and Troy Smith "likely" will start at quarterback in the regular-season finale, coach Brian Billick said.

Smith made his first NFL start in Sunday's 26-6 loss at Seattle. He completed 16 of 33 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown.

The Ravens have been inclined to start Kyle Boller, but he has been slow to recover from a mild concussion. Although Boller could be cleared for practice on Wednesday, it appears that Billick wants to play it safe with the former first-round pick.

"Not knowing how his progression will be during the week, it's likely that Troy will get another start," Billick said. "We'll prepare the game plan with Troy being the starter in mind."

McGahee injured his ribs late in the first quarter and did not return. He will finish the season with 1,207 yards rushing, 41 yards shy of breaking his career high.

When McGahee left Sunday, the Ravens went with Mike Anderson, who had eight carries for 44 yards. But it's uncertain whether Anderson will get the start -- he is nursing a quadriceps injury.

"So there again, I can't offer much until we get through the week," Billick said.

The injury situation is more grim at tight end.

Todd Heap (hamstring) and Daniel Wilcox (thigh) both were sidelined Sunday, and Quinn Sypniewski sustained a concussion. That means the only healthy tight end is Lee Vickers, who originally entered the league as an undrafted defensive end. "We'll have to find some other answer if Quinn can't go," Billick said. "We'll have to adapt to that personnel. I don't know if we could bring in anyone now who could step in now and perform."

There is a strong possibility that the Ravens could face Pittsburgh without seven starters (McGahee, Heap, quarterback Steve McNair, linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle and defensive tackle Trevor Pryce) and four top backups (Wilcox, quarterback Kyle Boller, receiver Demetrius Williams, returner B.J. Sams).

Said Billick: "In my 30-some odd years, I don't remember ever having gone through this type of thing."


--Linebacker Ray Lewis missed a game for the first time this season because of a dislocated finger, and it showed. Lewis might not be the game-changing playmaker like years ago, but he remains the compass of that defense. Without him in the middle, the Ravens allowed a season-worst 144 yards rushing to a Seattle offense that ranked 20th in rushing offense.

Replacing Lewis was Nick Greisen, who previously started with the New York Giants.

"I thought I had more good plays than obviously bad, but it's a tough place to be right now when guys just work so hard and things don't work out for you," Greisen said. "The guys have shown a lot of character of sticking together and staying as a team, not pointing fingers and competing as a team."

Greisen, in his sixth NFL season, said his approach to starting for the Ravens isn't any different from what it was for the Giants.

"I don't think you can ever prove yourself enough," Greisen said. "You always have to showcase your talents, and when you get the opportunity, you have to make the most out of it."

--Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel denied a report that he was in Las Vegas to watch UCLA play -- and lose to -- Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday night.

Neuheisel has been mentioned prominently as a candidate to become the next coach at his alma mater.

"I don't go to Vegas for anything," Neuheisel said after the game.

As for his return to Seattle, where he served as coach of the Washington Huskies for four seasons, Neuheisel said: "It was exciting to be back in Seattle. As I have said before, I have had a lot of great memories here. Unfortunately, we didn't make another one today."

--After Willie Gaston allowed a 21-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, the Ravens replaced the rookie with second-year cornerback Derrick Martin. Faring better than Gaston, Martin had his second interception of the season and nearly had a couple more.

"It was not as good a day as it could have been," said Martin, who had one of those near picks go right through his hands. "If I had made those other plays, you never know what could have happened."

--Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has been moved from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.


--QB Troy Smith is expected to make his second NFL start Sunday against Pittsburgh because Kyle Boller is still recovering from a concussion. In his first NFL start, Smith was 16-for-33 for 199 yards and a touchdown.

--QB Kyle Boller could be cleared to practice Wednesday, but he is expected to be the backup. He is still recovering from a concussion.

--RB Willis McGahee is out for Sunday after fracturing two ribs. He will be replaced by Mike Anderson or Musa Smith.

--RB Mike Anderson could make his first start of the season because Willis McGahee is out with two fractured ribs. But Anderson is nursing a leg injury and might have to split carries with Musa Smith.

--RB Musa Smith might make his first start of the season because Willis McGahee is out with two fractured ribs and Mike Anderson is nursing a leg injury.



PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Smith looked like a rookie quarterback who had few weapons around him. He finished 16-for-33 passing for 199 yards and relied on his scrambling ability to avoid the Seahawks' constant pass rush. The most positive part about his performance was his ability to stay poised. But he fumbled on his only significant drive of the game and threw a near interception deep in his own territory (it bounced off the chest of a Seahawks defender).

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Willis McGahee left the game in the first quarter with fractured ribs and did not return. He wasn't effective, rushing for 10 yards on five carries. Backup Mike Anderson ran hard and gained 44 yards on eight carries, but he had a fumble in the second quarter that changed the complexion of the game.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Willie Gaston was benched after he got burned on a 21-yard touchdown. Derrick Martin played his best game of the season, making an interception and nearly picking off two more. Safety Ed Reed also had an interception. But the Ravens allowed too many receivers to get open. If Matt Hasselbeck was on his game, the Seahawks could have done more damage.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Without Ray Lewis, the Ravens weren't able to hold their own like they usually do. Kelly Gregg got blocked inside and the linebackers didn't pursue quickly enough to the outside. The Ravens allowed a season-worst 144 yards rushing.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Ravens allowed one big punt return to Nate Burleson but contained him on kickoffs. Ravens rookie returner Yamon Figurs has to run north and south instead of east and west.

COACHING: D -- With so many starters out, Brian Billick didn't take any chances. He didn't run any gadget plays or deliver any surprises. He seemed content with losing.

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