A week after coach Brian Billick suggested his quarterback might need to see a sports psychologist, the Ravens' Kyle Boller did what many considered unthinkable.
Boller threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens' 48-3 win over 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) watched 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). 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).
"This means a lot, especially with what I've been going through," Boller said.
He threw two touchdown passes to tight end Todd Heap (2 and 27 yards) and one to receiver Randy Hymes (13 yards), leading the Ravens to the most points scored in their 10-year history.
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's always good to recognize that's what your potential is and you can live up to that against a very good defense," 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 low point for Favre was a high one in a tumultuous season for the Ravens (5-9), who scored two touchdowns in the first quarter for the first time since Billick took over in 1999 and never looked back.
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 running back Jamal Lewis gained 100 yards for the second time this season (105 yards on 22 carries).
"As a whole offense, we saw what we're capable of," Heap said. "Now, we just need to go and build off that. We've got to take the attitude that we can't accept anything less."
The electric offense night began for the Ravens from the first time they touched the ball.
The Ravens' first drive was jump-started by B.J. Sams' 49-yard punt return. After spinning out of a tackle, Sams had a clear path up the right side, where Ed Reed knocked punter B.J. Sander off his feet.
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.
"When they put a safety on him, it's a mismatch you have to take advantage of every time," Boller said.
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 facemask 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 got a boost on the ensuing kickoff, which Ahmad Carroll brought back 57 yards. A 15-yard personal foul on kicker Matt Stover (low block) allowed Green Bay to start at the Ravens' 15.
Green Bay couldn't move past the Ravens' 9, and safety Ed Reed broke up the third-down pass in the end zone. Ryan Longwell's 27-yard field goal 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, a drive that was extended by a holding penalty on Packers safety Mark Roman, converting a third down deep in Ravens' territory.
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.
The first-half scoring wasn't over as the Ravens capitalized on Favre's nonchalant passes downfield.
In what likely was his final Monday night appearance for the player nicknamed "Prime Time," Deion Sanders picked off Favre and returned the ball 24 yards to the Packers' 44.
The Ravens converted Sanders' second interception of the season into a 23-yard field goal by Stover. It ended the highest-scoring first half of the season for the Ravens, who took a 24-3 lead into intermission.
The scoring barrage spilled over in the second half for the Ravens, who scored for the fifth time in their first six drives.
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 - which put the Ravens up 31-3 in the third quarter - 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 touchdown run by Lewis at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
That allowed the Ravens to break 40 points for the first time since Nov. 30, 2003, when they scored 44 points against the San Francisco 49ers.
"It was nice to finally have a game where everything goes your way," Billick said. "They got a chance to redeem themselves nationally [and show] what they're about."
Vikings@Ravens Sunday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Off the board
After having reached the 20-point mark only once in the season's first 13 games, the Ravens set a franchise record for points scored last night. Their top scoring games:
Pts. ....................... Opp. ................... Date
48 ..................... vs. Packers ............ 12/19/05
44 ...................... vs. Browns ............. 11/26/00
........................... vs. Seahawks* ....... 11/23/03
........................... vs. 49ers ................. 11/30/03
41 ...................... at Browns ............... 11/7/99
........................... vs. Titans ................ 12/5/99
* - Overtime