A week after Kyle Boller could do nothing right, the Ravens' oft-criticized quarterback seemed like he could do nothing wrong.
Accomplishing what many considered unthinkable, Boller threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens' 48-3 rout of the Green Bay Packers last night, out-dueling Brett Favre in what might be the final Monday Night Football appearance of a storied career.
On a numbingly cold night at M&T Bank Stadium - the wind chill was 19 degrees - the largest pro football crowd in the city's history (70,604) witnessed the most lopsided game in Monday Night Football history, watching in disbelief as Boller's play couldn't get any hotter.
Boller shredded the NFL's top-ranked pass defense, completing 19 of 27 passes (70 percent) before leaving with eight minutes left. Eight days after perhaps his worst game - two interceptions and one fumble in Denver - he was nearly perfect, recording a career-best 136.8 quarterback rating (out of a possible 158.3).
There's still no guarantee Boller will return as the starter next year, but at least for one night, he showed the promise the Ravens had long envisioned.
"This means a lot especially with what I've been going through," Boller said. "I felt this game I was going to go out there and play relaxed and smooth ... [and] let the game come to me."
In a measure of the Ravens fans' confidence in Boller, one purple-clad fan carried a sign at the beginning of the night that read: "Santa, Please Send Us An NFL Quarterback For Christmas."
Boller then left the field hearing fans chanting his name.
It was quite a turnaround for Boller, whose coach suggested a week ago that he might need to see a sports psychologist to help him calm down.
"It's always good to recognize that's what your potential is and you can live up to that against a very good defense," coach Brian Billick said. "There's never a downside to producing like that."
Favre, meanwhile, was only a shell of his former All-Pro self. He was 14-for-29 for 144 yards and two interceptions, exiting with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
The Ravens, who have struggled at forcing turnovers, came away with five last night, including three from Favre's replacement Aaron Rodgers.
"It just seemed like [Favre] was throwing balls up in the air, which is not typical of him," cornerback Chris McAlister said.
The low point for Favre was a high one in a tumultous season for the Ravens (5-9), who scored two touchdowns in the first quarter for the first time since Billick took over in 1999.
The league's second-lowest-scoring offense beat up the floundering Packers (3-11), totaling 435 yards and eclipsing 40 points for the first time since November 2003, a span of 33 games.
Heap caught nine passes for 110 yards to become the team's all-time leader in receiving yards, and Jamal Lewis gained 100 yards for the second time this season (105 yards on 22 carries).
In the end, the Ravens scored on seven of their first nine possessions, reeling off drives of 18, 75, 96, 63, 72, 56 and 14 yards.
"As a whole offense, we saw what we're capable of," Heap said. "Now, we just need to go and build off that."
The offense's electric night began for the Ravens from the first time they touched the ball.
The first drive was jump-started by B.J. Sams' 49-yard punt return.
Five plays after Sams set the Ravens up at the Green Bay 18-yard line, Boller felt the heavy blitz and lofted a 2-yard pass over Packers safety Nick Collins to hit Heap in the end zone.
On the Ravens' second possession, they moved quickly into Green Bay territory on a Lewis 17-yard run and a 22-yard catch by Derrick Mason (which included a 14-yard face-mask penalty).
The 75-yard drive was finished off by one of the few trick plays that worked this season. Taking a direct snap, rookie receiver Mark Clatyon followed a lead block by Lewis around the right corner and scored an 11-yard touchdown.
In taking a 14-0 lead, the Ravens produced two touchdowns in the first 8:08 after cracking the goal line just 15 times in their previous 13 games.
A lethargic Packers' offense only avoided a shutout because of Ahmad Carroll's 57-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. Green Bay couldn't move past the Ravens' 9, settling for Ryan Longwell's 27-yard field goal that shaved the Ravens' lead to 14-3.
The second quarter was owned by the Ravens, who held the ball for over half that period (8:26) on one drive.
Starting at their own 4, the Ravens marched 96 yards on a drive that was extended by a holding penalty on Packers safety Mark Roman.
Boller took it over from there, completing five of seven passes for 65 yards. The Ravens' longest drive of the season was capped by Randy Hymes, who made a leaping, one-handed grab on a 13-yard, jump-ball pass in the end zone.
"It's a step forward," left tackle Jonathan Ogden said of Boller. "He's just got to continue to build off this."
The first-half scoring wasn't over as the Ravens capitalized on Favre's nonchalant passes downfield. The Ravens converted an interception by Deion Sanders, who was playing in perhaps his final Monday night game, into a 23-yard field goal by Matt Stover.
To open the second half, Boller led Heap down the right sideline for a 27-yard touchdown, making it a memorable night for the two-time Pro Bowl tight end. With that catch, Heap became the Ravens' all-time leader in receiving yards.
The Ravens kept rolling with a 40-yard field goal by Stover at the end of the third quarter and a 3-yard run by Lewis.
Linebacker Adalius Thomas finished off the scoring by returning a Rodgers fumble 35 yards for a touchdown with 17 seconds left.
It marked the largest margin of victory in Ravens' history.
"It was nice to finally have a game where everything goes your way," Billick said. "They got a chance to redeem themselves nationally what they're about."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun