On a day to remember a legend, the Ravens delivered a performance to forget.
After a heartfelt pre-game ceremony in honor of the late Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas, the Ravens failed miserably to rise to the occasion yesterday, getting booed by fans at Ravens Stadium and getting routed, 25-0, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens' offensive effort tainted an emotional tribute, producing the team's first home shutout after remembering the city's greatest quarterback.
Tampa Bay (1-1) relied on its so-called Gulf Coast Offense - a high-percentage, short-passing game - to dominate time of possession and leaned on its defense and special teams for the game's only touchdowns. The Ravens (0-2) appeared lost at sea with their offensive game plan, driving past the Buccaneers' 34-yard line only twice and then giving up an interception that was returned the length of the field for a touchdown.
"That's as thorough [a] beating as you're going to get," the Ravens' Brian Billick said after his first shutout as a head coach.
That beating had taken its toll over three quarters. Tampa Bay had run out to an 18-0 lead, more than tripling the Ravens in total yards (273-82) and doubling time of possession (30:58 to 14:02). Eighteen of the Ravens' first 30 plays resulted in no gain or negative yardage.
Donning black high-top shoes to honor Unitas' memory, quarterback Chris Redman tripped continually in his second NFL start, finishing 16 of 38 for 141 yards. With the defense crowding the line to stop running back Jamal Lewis, Redman couldn't make the Buccaneers' defense pay, consistently throwing wild and connecting on just four passes over 10 yards.
His best drive came late in the fourth quarter, when he marched the Ravens to Tampa Bay's 4-yard line. But Redman's straight-line pass was tipped and caught by linebacker Derrick Brooks, who secured the shutout by running back the interception 97 yards for a touchdown.
The Ravens have scored only one touchdown in two games this season and have been held without a point in their past 20 drives.
"We wanted to progress every week, and I don't think we made much progress today," Redman said. "We're going to have to keep working. This is obviously a setback, but we just have to come out and correct everything we didn't do right, which was a lot. This was definitely a tough day.
"When you don't score, you're embarrassed."
By the time the Ravens converted their initial first down, they trailed 10-0. Tampa Bay opened the game with a 12-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 36-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica.
After the Ravens' second straight three-and-out series, the Buccaneers' Karl Williams returned a punt 56 yards untouched for a touchdown. Williams used a stutter step to elude three Ravens around him and then only had to beat punter Dave Zastudil to the sideline.
The first punt returned for a score against the Ravens in three years staked Tampa Bay to a 10-0 lead with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
"If I could go back, I would have been up there 7 yards farther and tried to turn him inside to the field," Zastudil said. "I'll take the blame as the last man on the field. I hope to God we never have to be in that situation again."
Said Billick: "We had guys around it. It was just a matter of not tackling well."
The Ravens then watched Tampa Bay go 82 yards on 17 plays on its first drive of the second quarter. Eating up nearly 8 1/2 minutes, the Buccaneers again settled for a field goal by Gramatica, this one from 30 yards.
Hanging within two scores heading into the third quarter, the Ravens unraveled on the first play of the second half.
Lewis never got the handle on a simple handoff from Redman, fumbling it behind him. Unable to pick it up at the 7-yard line, Redman inadvertently rolled the ball backward, where it hit the pylon for a safety.
"It was getting a little slippery out there," Redman said of the rain, "and we didn't get the exchange. I don't think there's anyone to blame."
The Buccaneers then put together their third 10-plus play drive of the game, using 6:31 of the clock before Gramatica's 30-yarder increased the lead to 18-0 midway through the third quarter.
Instead of going into a hurry-up attack, the Ravens acted as if they were the team ahead. They didn't go to a no-huddle offense and seemed content to run the ball. The Ravens even called a draw play up the middle on third-and-17 late in the third quarter, drawing the ire of a once-empathetic crowd.
"You don't concede the game," Billick said. "But it does no good to throw three passes and come out. You try to keep some semblance of balance that allows you to give the quarterback a chance to read something out and go ahead and make a throw. Having him throw into the teeth of the defense, is he going to learn from that?"
Meanwhile, the Ravens' defense gritted it out and didn't allow a touchdown in a tireless effort. Despite allowing Tampa Bay to run up and down the field behind Brad Johnson's precision passing (24 of 31), the Ravens buckled down in the red zone and held the Bucs to three field goals.
In the first two weeks of the season, the Ravens' defense has given up just one touchdown, but the team is 0-2 for just the second time in the franchise's seven-year history.
"We can't always look to them to bail us out of situations," receiver Brandon Stokley said.
Redman had dreamed of dedicating a victory to his idol. But the reality of the Ravens' offensive struggles may become a season-long nightmare.
"I definitely wanted to win one for him," Redman said of Unitas. "But sometimes, it doesn't happen that way."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun