Execution. Apparently, that attribute is so lacking on an offense ranked 31st in the league that Ravens coach Brian Billick doesn't even want anyone to broach the subject.
Can you blame him? Only a true sadist would want to dissect a collection of dropped passes, collapsed pockets, a scary fumble and a woeful statistical line from a veteran quarterback who should know better. Jeff Blake's numbers: 11 of 24 accuracy, 109 yards, four sacks, one interception and a quarterback rating of 41.8.
"One of you all is going to make a mistake and ask me about execution," Billick said. "Don't do that to yourself. I'm pretty open, pretty direct. I'll answer all your questions, but don't be the dumb son of a bitch to ask me about execution now."
The testy coach brought to mind the late John McKay's classic remark. Asked about his winless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers' execution, McKay said: "I'm in favor of it."
Off with their heads, then. Well, actually a mass decapitation won't solve this problem. Hand transplants for the receiving corps might be a more novel approach.
Travis Taylor and Ron Johnson dropped several passes and combined for two receptions for 16 yards. Taylor was the 10th overall selection in the 2000 NFL Draft and is supposedly the featured wideout, but caught just one pass for two yards.
Yes, that advanced the football by six total feet.
"It takes execution," said Taylor, using the word Billick obviously stressed in his locker-room summation. "Point blank, we have to do what we're supposed to do."
Billick cited character and passion, but there has to be greater production and talent from an offense unranked among league leaders in total offense since the Ted Marchibroda era.
"We weren't really that worried about that offense," Titans end Kevin Carter said. "We were concerned with Jamal Lewis. They definitely have the players to be better. They need more continuity."
On 4th-and-1 and nursing a 10-6 lead in the third quarter, the Ravens split gifted tight end Todd Heap out wide. Tennessee called a timeout to adjust. Having already tipped their hand on the primary target, Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh had Blake throw it deep to Heap. Blake stumbled and threw up a prayer that safety Lance Schulters picked off. Tennessee didn't capitalize on Blake's sixth interception in five starts.
Jamal Lewis, the rugged 231-pounder who rushed for 95 yards on 17 carries, was upset at not being called on. "I know what I'm capable of," Lewis huffed. "I know my strengths and weaknesses. I'm ready. Give me the ball."
Exactly. Copying the Kansas City Chiefs' model of Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez shouldering most of the load is worth a try. Right now, this mule is stuck in neutral. Some dynamic or imaginative step is required to make a quantum leap in acceleration.
"I think it can happen," Taylor said. "I can guarantee that, but we can't have mistakes here and there. Everything is going wrong, but a win is a win."