Boller seeks turn on road

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Kyle Boller out-dueled one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks of all time in Brett Favre.

He rallied the Ravens from three different deficits against a playoff contender in the Minnesota Vikings.

Now, after the two best weeks of his career comes an even greater challenge: Winning at Cleveland Browns Stadium today, a roadblock that carries more significance than merely beating an unraveling last-place team.

Boller is 5-11 for his career on the road (compared to 13-4 at home), becoming the front man for the Ravens' never-ending troubles away from M&T; Bank Stadium. The Ravens (6-9) haven't won on the road in 412 days, a streak of 10 consecutive losses that they don't want to take into next season.

"We've got to find some way to get that win there and end the season on a high note," Boller said. "It seems like every time you go through that airport, you just want to put your head down because we come back with losses."

Boller has always seemed like a different quarterback outside of Baltimore, a point re-emphasized in his three road losses this season.

There were his three interceptions - one in the red zone and one returned for a touchdown - in a 30-3 loss in Jacksonville. There were his three turnovers - all of which were converted into 17 points - in a 42-29 loss in Cincinnati.

And there were his three turnovers - two costly interceptions deep in Broncos territory and one fumble with no one around him - in a 12-10 loss in Denver.

In his career, Boller has thrown 21 of his 30 interceptions on the road.

"Turnovers have been an issue for us," Boller said. "If I can go out there and not turn the ball over - like we have the last couple of weeks - good things are going to happen."

This could be a favorable test for Boller considering Cleveland's Dawg Pound won't have the same bite as the Browns wrap up another unforgiving season. Cleveland (5-10) has lost four of its past five games, including a 41-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home.

Still, playing on the road should test Boller's newfound confidence.

In winning the past two weeks, Boller went 43-for-61 (70 percent) for 542 yards with six touchdowns and only one interception. It's a remarkable turnaround that has won back teammates and fans but not Boller's most loyal supporter.

Ravens coach Brian Billick has yet to endorse him as his starter for next season and even acknowledged the possibility of bringing in a veteran quarterback this offseason, which surprisingly doesn't rattle Boller.

"Personally, I think I'll be the starter [next season]," Boller said. "I think I'm a good quarterback and will compete with anybody they bring in. I just feel like I've turned the corner."

The same could be said of the entire offense.

With Boller making better decisions, the Ravens' targets have lived up to their potential, giving them a triple threat with Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Mark Clayton. The Ravens have averaged 39 points and 401 yards of offense the past two games, a dramatic improvement over the 13.1 points and 278.8 yards in the first 13 games.

Cleveland could give Boller and the passing game a stiff challenge. The Browns have the second-best pass defense in the AFC, holding quarterbacks to a 52 percent completion rate over the past four games (51-for-98).

"We know what we're doing that allows the defense can lean on us a little bit. That's not been that way in the past," Heap said. "You can't go back. I've never been against expectations."

The only goal for the Browns these days is to reach the end zone. Cleveland hasn't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters.

Rookie quarterback Charlie Frye, who took over for Trent Dilfer four games ago, is coming off his roughest game. He was sacked eight times and had four fumbles (losing one).

"He seemed real poised for a rookie," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "He didn't look great last week but played a great defense. He's going to see another one this week, so hopefully we'll make him look the same."

The Ravens' focus, as Billick has constantly stressed, needs to be on building on the momentum of winning three of their past four games.

But the Ravens have eight key contributors who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (Weaver, running backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor, nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, injured safety Will Demps, linebackers Tommy Polley and Bart Scott and punter Dave Zastudil) and could be playing their last game for the team.

"You try to put that out there someplace, and not think much about it. You finish the job and then let the process take care of itself," Billick said. "It's hard, particularly when we know where the end is for us right now. They've been fighting it through for a month or two now, and I imagine they'll do it for one more week."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Ravens@Browns Today, 1 p.m., chs. 13, 9, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Ravens by 3

Home and away

How Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller has fared on the road and at home in his career:

Stat Home Road

Record 13-4 5-11

Completion pct. 57.6 54.6

Yds. per game 164.7 166.7

Yds. per att. 6.1 5.5

TD passes 17 14

Interceptions 9 21

QB rating 79.8 62.0

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