Chiefs slow Case attack to a crawl

Sun Staff

The honeymoon period for first-year Ravens coach Brian Billick and quarterback Stoney Case began coming to an end last night.

Billick's offensive unit was booed periodically throughout the game as a sellout crowd of 68,771 and a national television audience watched the Kansas City Chiefs rout the Ravens, 35-8, at PSINet Stadium last night.

Billick was hired last January to pump some emotion into the team and some life into an offense that was one of the worst in the NFL. But last night, the Ravens offense looked quite similar to the one operated by former coach Ted Marchibroda the past three seasons.

And they still have one of the worst offenses in the league.

Case, whom Billick thought might be their leader in the future, was horrendous completing only 15 of 37 passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns. He had three interceptions, two that were returned for touchdowns. The last one, intercepted by linebacker Donnie Edwards and lateraled to safety Reggie Tongue for a 38-yard touchdown,

put Case on the bench for Tony Banks with 10: 35 seconds left in the game.

By then, the Chiefs (4-2) had a 28-0 lead and it left the Ravens questioning who will be their starting quarterback next Sunday against Buffalo. The Ravens (2-4) benched former starting quarterback Scott Mitchell after the first six quarters of the season.

"This is as disappointing of a game as I've ever played in," said Billick. "You try to improve every week, saying this was better than it was, but that didn't happen tonight. It's disappointing that we can't support our defense. I'm not talking about wholesale changes, like who is going to be my quarterback or whatever. The lack of offensive productivity is new to me. We'll try to find the right combination. I don't know what it is."

Billick would not say if Banks would start over Case against the Bills.

"Tonight Stoney's performance was not what it needed to be, but I'll look at film, analyze it, look it over and then regroup. This is not a decision I can make tonight," said Billick.

The other interception Case threw for a touchdown put the Chiefs ahead, 14-0, when cornerback James Hasty returned it 56 yards for a touchdown with 5: 10 left in the third quarter. Case was trying to threw a short pass to Justin Armour, but telegraphed the play. Hasty caught the ball, then only had to beat Case down the left sideline for the touchdown.

But Case cannot take the entire blame. Ravens receivers got very little separation from Kansas City defenders and the offensive line, hit by injuries, could not handle the Chiefs pass rush.

"I want the opportunity to come back, but that's coach's decision," said Case about starting. "Their coverage was what we expected. They pressed our receivers, and played man-to-man a lot. I was just terrible."

Banks said: "I've felt like I'm the guy ever since I got here. That's just my nature. I've been forced to be patient. It's been a humbling experience and maybe it's something I needed. I took a lot of things for granted in this league from all the games I started."

The Chiefs' other two scores came off touchdown passes to tight end Tony Gonzalez, the last one of 22 yards with 12: 27 left in the game as Gonzalez beat outside linebacker Jamie Sharper for a 21-0 lead. Errict Rhett scored for the Ravens on a 2-yard run with 4: 05 left.

Kansas City's Bam Morris came back, though, to score a 1-yard touchdown with 2: 30 left as the Ravens failed to convert on the onside kick.

The Ravens held the Chiefs to 218 yards of total offense and two of the team's top receivers, Andre Rison and Derrick Alexander, didn't have a catch. The defense has held its own during the course of the year, but the offense hasn't been a factor.

Billick isn't concerned about his defensive players pointing fingers.

"That would be a classless act, a gutless thing to do, to think these guys don't want to do better," said Billick. "That's nothing more than standing up in a public forum and saying it's not me."

"When you lose like we did tonight, some people would fold up their season," said Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. "But we got too many classy guys for that."

The Ravens had great field position in the first half but didn't score. The Ravens started possessions on their own 48-, 40- and 36-yard lines. The closest they came to scoring was Matt Stover converting on a 32-yard field goal with 1: 21 left in the first quarter, but that was nullified when the Ravens were penalized for having 12 players on the field.

Stover then hit the upright on his next attempt from 37 yards. Even in that drive of 46 yards, the Ravens were fortunate because twice Chiefs cornerback Cris Dishman was called for pass interference. The Ravens' offense only gained 1 yard in the series.

The Ravens had only 112 yards of total offense in the first half and the unit was totally inept. Case could have easily been intercepted three times, but had only one picked off on the Ravens first offensive series.

Case, making just his fifth career start, often threw into double coverage and even had a hard time completing short flare passes to his running backs and tight ends in the flat. Twice he missed completing possible touchdown passes to rookie receiver Brandon Stokley, who left the game at halftime with a dislocated shoulder. Case completed only eight of 23 passes for 41 yards in the first half.

The Ravens, already short on healthy offensive linemen, lost starting right tackle James Atkins with a strained groin injury in the first quarter and left tackle Jonathan Ogden had problems handling the Chiefs' pass rush. Ogden had missed most of the last two games with a sprained neck.

Several times during the first half, the sellout crowd booed and there were quite a few empty seats when the second half started.

The Ravens managed to stay close in the first half because Kansas City had poor field position in the first quarter and Chiefs head coach Gunther Cunningham wanted to establish a running game. Kansas City had 80 yards of total offense in the first half.

But the Chiefs finally scored on a nine-play, 73-yard drive that was finished by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Elvis Grbac to Gonzalez with 12: 01 left in the half. Three times during the drive the Chiefs successfully went after rookie cornerback Chris McAlister for completions of 20, 17 and 7 yards.

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