By Jamison Hensley
September 12, 2005
As quarterback Kyle Boller was helped off the field, it had become painfully obvious in the season opener: The Ravens' new-look offense has the same old problems.
Stalled drives, dropped passes and countless penalties proved to be disastrous in the Ravens' 24-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last night.
Once again, the defense played well enough to win and the offense produced enough mistakes to lose.
The Ravens managed 401 yards of offense and all they had to show for it were three missed field-goal attempts by Matt Stover and a meaningless touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game.
"It's just about as bad an opener as you can have," said Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.
A record crowd of 70,501 at M&T Bank Stadium and a national television audience saw the Ravens' revamped offense - new receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton along with new coordinator Jim Fassel - struggle much like the Ravens have done in the past.
Before their final drive, the Ravens crossed into Colts territory six times but never got closer than the 20-yard line. Failing to score touchdowns won't cut it against the Colts, last year's highest-scoring offense.
In assessing the offense, coach Brian Billick said, "Not good enough tonight. You've got to make plays if you're going to keep up with an outstanding team like that."
The Ravens' fourth straight season-opening loss also was a night in which they lost their quarterback. After the Colts built a 17-0 lead near the end of the third quarter, Boller was reeling in pain after getting sacked by Larry Tripplett, who beat Ogden to the outside.
Boller hyper-extended his right toe - Billick called it severe turf toe - and did not return. X-rays on his right foot were negative.
"It's always more severe than it sounds," Billick said. "We'll have to see on the toe."
Team officials said there is no timetable on Boller's return.
"The toe is sore," said Boller, who was 15-for-23 for 141 yards and one interception. "I've never had any foot problems before. It's concerning because it's my plant foot."
The home crowd that had booed Boller in the preseason began cheering when he got hurt.
But Boller's replacement, Anthony Wright, didn't fare much better, finishing 19-for-31 for 214 yards. He fumbled once and threw two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown.
"I love the fans of Baltimore but that was a little bit classless," defensive end Tony Weaver said of the fans' cheering the injury. "Kyle is our guy. He is our quarterback and we are going to stand by him."
Unlike past seasons, the offense couldn't count on kicker Stover to bail it out.
The third-most accurate kicker in NFL history missed three field-goal attempts - from 38, 47 and 45 yards - for the first time since 1998.
"I look at misses as a turnover and momentum changer," Stover said. "I apologize to the city of Baltimore for the performance."
Two of his misses came when the Colts were leading just 3-0.
"Sometimes a kicker doesn't have it," Billick said.
The struggles of Stover and the offense wasted a strong effort by the defense.
The Ravens held quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts to a field goal for 2 1/2 quarters, keeping them out of the end zone despite three tries from the 2-yard line.
Actually, the Ravens nearly got a touchdown of their own. Manning's third-down pass to the right side went through the hands of cornerback Chris McAlister, who had no one between him and the end zone.
The Colts had to settle for Mike Vanderjagt's 20-yard field goal, putting them ahead, 3-0, with 15 seconds left in the second quarter.
"No sacks, no turnovers," McAlister said. "That's not our type of football."
After Stover's second miss midway through the third quarter, Indianapolis was helped out by the Ravens again. Dale Carter's illegal use of hands on third down kept what became a critical drive alive.
The Colts made the Ravens pay five plays later, when Marvin Harrison caught a 28-yard touchdown pass. Harrison was initially covered on the play, but he got a step separation on McAlister right at the goal line and gave the Colts a 10-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
After the Ravens failed to get a third down, the Colts went back to work again. A 26-yard pass from Manning to tight end Ben Utecht increased Indianapolis' margin to 17-0 with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
Holding the Colts' offense to two touchdowns is impressive considering it averaged four a game last season.
"Our game plan worked most of the game, but there is a reason why he's a Pro Bowler," Weaver said. "That is what Peyton Manning does: He goes out there and makes big plays."
The Ravens' big play was actually an insignificant one. Wright's 17-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Wilcox with 13 seconds remaining avoided the Ravens' first shutout in three years.
It did not sit well with everyone, even though the Colts celebrated their first win in Baltimore since they relocated to Indianapolis in 1984.
"The game was over and [Billick] is still trying to run the plays," defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "He should be happy he didn't hurt one of his players doing that."
Reaching the end zone didn't ease much of the sting.
The Ravens won't soon forget the countless penalties on offense or the drop by Clarence Moore at the end of the first half that would have put them in field-goal range or their quarterback being carried off the field.
"Nothing is more demoralizing than a loss," Mason said. "Then add in losing your starting quarterback and it's a downer."
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