Mike Preston: I think cornerback Samari Rolle's foot hasn't completely healed from two weeks ago. He's a veteran player and the recovery time from injuries isn't as fast as it is for younger players. I have no idea why there hasn't been safety help over the top on both of those long plays. Ed Reed was definitely slow getting over there against the Chargers. I think the Ravens are vulnerable in the secondary, and not as strong as I've indicated the past two seasons. We'll find out the true measure of the secondary once the Ravens start playing against better quarterbacks.
Ravens questions for Sun columnist Mike Preston can be submitted on game days from halftime until three hours after the game.
- Those Fantasy Guys: Ravens fantasy flash
Mike Preston: Easy, Phil. I haven't been impressed with Jamal Lewis yet this season either, but I won't give up on him this early in the season. You have to take into consideration that the offensive line isn't overpowering, and also add into the equation that the Ravens were playing the Chargers. That's a good team, especially on defense. In fact, if they had a better coach and a more proven quarterback, I'd put them in the Super Bowl. It's still early in the season. If Lewis doesn't come around, then there is always Smith and Mike Anderson. When you're unbeaten, time does become an ally.
Dennis, Upper Marlboro: Mike, glad to be 4-0, but why are we only able to move the ball when we have a sense of urgency? Like clockwork, we can drive the ball right down the field when we need to. Why can't we do that in the first and third quarters?
Mike Preston: The Ravens don't want McNair tossing the ball all over the field. That's very dangerous, especially at his age, and with his arm being so erratic. He moves the ball well because teams go into prevent defenses late in the game, and they give him those short passes. If given time, McNair will find open receivers. The Ravens have to find some kind of balance and rhythm with their base offense. Imagine what this team would be like if they really had an offense.
Brian, Arbutus: What's up with that shovel pass at the goal line? You have to run it, and not with Lewis. Smith is the only back with some pop and a burst. Give it to him!
Mike Preston: Again, remember who the Ravens were playing. The Chargers have perhaps the best front seven in the NFL. Against certain teams, I would have tried a straight handoff again. But I liked the way the Ravens set up the play. They went with motion, and got San Diego to spread out on defense. Guard Edwin Mulitalo got the kickout block. There was a huge hole there, but that Charger linebacker just made one hell of a tackle on Dan Wilcox. Hey, this is the NFL. The other teams have great players and they make great plays, too. Nope, believe it or not, I agreed with Brian Billick when he didn't go for it on fourth down with about five or six minutes left in the game, and I thought offensive coordinator Jim Fassel made a nice call on the shovel pass.
Damn, I'm mellowing in my old age. It must be that heart medication.
Ken, Hagerstown: How much better will this offense get? Can this defense carry the team the whole season?
Mike Preston: I give up on the offense. Anything the Ravens get out of that unit is strictly a bonus. They have to get better. They can't get any ... oh, never mind.
Errol, Baltimore: Why doesn't McNair get Todd Heap into the game sooner?
Mike Preston: I think the Ravens come out and want to establish the run, and the passing attack is secondary. I'd like to see Heap get the ball earlier, too, and you wonder sometimes where he is during the game. Again, there isn't any balance with this offense -- something is missing besides a couple of good offensive linemen.
Dale, Woodlawn: I'm not going to bash McNair and the offense. However, would you agree that this is the same formula that won us a championship?
Mike Preston: You can look at it that way, but the defense isn't nearly as dominating as the one in 2000. San Diego had the Ravens defense on the ropes, and could have put up some points if coach Marty Schottenheimer hadn't been so conservative in the second half. The Ravens want to score points. It's not like they're trying to rediscover that magic formula from 2000-01. Also, the Ravens did have a running game back then, and the ground game hasn't materialized yet this season. With that said, the Ravens have a good team and they hustle until the final second. The team chemistry is good, but they have some holes better teams will exploit. San Diego exposed some weaknesses on both interior lines, especially the lack of a pass rush from the front four when the Ravens don't blitz.
Matt, Pikesville: Do you agree with Brian Billick's decision to punt on 4th-and-1 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter?
Mike Preston: Yes, I agreed with Billick. He had the pulse of the game. The Chargers were playing Martyball, and unless there was a big running play, San Diego wasn't going to get out of its own territory. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers was cold because he threw only four passes before that in the second half. To me, the Chargers asked the Ravens to make the plays to win the game, and the Ravens did. There's a reason Schottenheimer has lost four AFC championship games. Around the league, they say Marty can make bad players good, good players good and great players good. It's true.
Dan, Harrisburg, Pa.: Can part of the blame for a less-than-stellar running game be placed on the fullback? Where is another Sam Gash when you need him?
Mike Preston: The next Sam Gash still plays for the Chargers. Boy, does that guy still get it done or what? It wouldn't hurt the Ravens to have a bruising fullback, but this offense has been in transition for two years. The Ravens want to be run-oriented, but they also want to run more H-back, and that doesn't require a big, bruising fullback. When the Ravens were strictly a power running team, they had the big back leading the way for Jamal Lewis. I agree with you. A good, lead blocker for Lewis, who is used to operating out of the I-formation, can't hurt.
Aaron, Chico, Cal.: I don't quite understand how the Ravens managed to win this game. Ray Lewis missed a key tackle on Antonio Gates that would've ended the first Chargers drive. We had a sure touchdown when Wilcox fumbled on the 1-yard line. The all-too-dependable Mason loses a sure touchdown in the sun. On top of this, we had a poor running game and lousy clock management to end the first half. How did we win?
Mike Preston: It's the mojo man. The moon and the stars are aligned with the Ravens early in the season. Life is good. Just take it, and enjoy it.