Billick, Ravens' logic flawed

PITTSBURGH – Get beyond the realm of another lecture from Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick regarding his high estimation of the character of his football team. Ignore his caustic implications about cowardly thinking being at the center of any dissenting argument on how veteran quarterback Jeff Blake should have played it safe instead of forcing his eventual end-zone interception toward a converted quarterback from Grambling despite double-coverage.

"I said, ‘Jeff, I want you to pull up and throw an interception,'" Billick quipped about the errant pass. "What do you think I told him? I said be careful, but do you know what? You can't tell a quarterback don't make plays.

"If you're too careful and too cautious about everything that you do, then you don't belong in this business."

Certainly, we can all agree with Billick's amusing point about how important it is to not need the services of a diaper during the crucial juncture of a 34-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that ended the Ravens' season.

This one wasn't about heart, or yet another excruciating learning experience. It should have been about logic. This was the time for wisdom. Take a safer shot and kick the field goal. Save the sarcasm, coach.

Regardless of whether it's Blake's fault for staring down promising former practice squad wideout Randy Hymes and ignoring the more attractive secondary read of blue-chip tight end Todd Heap, or if this falls on the shoulders of Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, the salary-cap shredded Ravens wouldn't have made the playoffs.

Still, with a first down at the Steelers' 11-yard line with 18 seconds and no timeouts remaining, here's the right potential move for the Ravens' unsuccessful quest to be 8-8: Either a fade route or pop pass to Heap or Travis Taylor that would have resulted in either a quick incompletion or won the game.

Depending upon the execution of those plays, having Matt Stover kick a field goal to send this pendulum game into overtime would have been the obvious choice. Except to Billick.

Definitely, the Ravens (7-9), who deserve considerable credit for competing intensely with the AFC North champions, are at a crossroads.

Especially, at the critical quarterback position. It's impossible to not question the judgment of Blake, an unrestricted free agent whose one-year contract is expiring, based on his carbon-copy interceptions to begin and end the game into heavy coverage.

While Blake performed admirably for the majority of the game, his lapses are troubling enough for Baltimore to bring back the sore-backed Chris Redman and stage a quarterback competition in August.

Redman isn't the athlete that Blake is, nor does he have ideal arm strength, but he takes less risks and deserves another chance depending upon the outcome of his back surgery.

None of this is to ignore the fact that there are other culprits for this loss. Namely, journeyman offensive tackle Ethan Brooks' struggles to pass block and penalties, rookie Chester Taylor's fumbled kickoff that led to the Steelers' game-winning score, plus the lack of a pass rush that allowed Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox an eternity.

Bottom line: The Ravens have another lesson to learn to be accepted to true contender's school.

"We have to choke them out," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "We need to step on people when they're down. Once you get up, you got to bury them."

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