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.
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.
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 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 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 benched Scott Mitchell after the first six quarters of the season.
The other interception for a score put the Chiefs ahead 14-0, when cornerback James Hasty returned Case's pass 56 yards for a touchdown with 5: 10 left in the third quarter. Case was trying to throw 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.
The Chiefs' other two scores came off touchdown passes to tight end Tony Gonzales, the last one of 22 yards with 12: 27 left in the game as Gonzales beat outside linebacker Jamie Sharper for a 21-0 lead. Ravens running back Errict Rhett scored for the Ravens on a 2-yard touchdown run with 4: 05 left in the game.
Kansas City running back Bam Morris came back, though, to score on a 1-yard touchdown run with 2: 30 left as the Ravens failed to convert on the onside kick. The Chiefs' drive was only three plays for 32 yards.
The Ravens, who lost linebacker Peter Boulware to a mild concussion late in the game, 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 men on the field.
Stover then hit the upright on his next attempt from 37 yards, missing the team's only real opportunity to score. Even in that drive, the Ravens were fortunate because twice Chiefs cornerback Cris Dishman was called for pass interference on receiver Qadry Ismail. One penalty resulted in 37 yards and the other was for 8. (A third Dishman interference call would set up the Ravens' only score.)
The Ravens had only 112 yards of total offense in the first half and the unit was totally inept. Case often was pressured and when he wasn't, he missed his targets. Case easily could have been intercepted three times, but had only one picked off on the Ravens' first offensive series with 12: 53 left in the first quarter.
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 just before 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 in the first quarter and Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden had problems handling the Chiefs' pass rush. Ogden had missed most of the past 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 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 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.
The Chiefs had another opportunity to score to open the third quarter, but Pete Stoyanovich missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt after a high snap with 10: 48 left in the third quarter.
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Buffalo Bills
Site: PSINet Stadium
When: Oct. 31, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Series: First meeting
Tickets: Sold out