CINCINNATI — CINCINNATI -- A cold Kyle Boller found himself under fire.
The Ravens backup quarterback, who just signed a one-year contract extension Thursday, was forced off the bench and onto the field for the final pivotal series of last night's regular-season opener against the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.
With starter Steve McNair sidelined by a groin injury, Boller entered the game with the Ravens trailing by seven and positioned at the Bengals' 24-yard line. Ten plays later, Boller's final pass ended up in the hands of a Cincinnati player, and the Ravens fell, 27-20.
"As a backup quarterback, you never know when your chance is going to come to get in there and play," Boller said. "So be it the first quarter or the fourth quarter, you've got to be ready. You've just got to go out there and try to make some plays."
Boller, who replaced McNair in two games last season, nearly propelled the Ravens to victory with a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Derrick Mason on fourth-and-three on the Bengals' 17 and an apparent 1-yard touchdown toss to tight end Todd Heap on fourth-and-goal.
"I wish I could've pulled it off," Boller said. "Maybe I could have put that ball a little lower to Todd. Just little things like that. It's tough. It's tough to lose it when you're right there on the verge of it, but we've just got to keep our heads high and hopefully go out there next week and get ready for the Jets."
While Billick was guarded about giving away any information on McNair's status for Sunday's home opener against the Jets ("We'll have to wait and see," Billick said), he seemed appreciative of Boller's performance under fire.
"That's tough when you get thrown into that situation cold and have to do some things," Billick said. "It looked to me like he threw a couple of touchdown passes - three, by my count, that needed to be held onto or called correct."
Whether McNair can play, Boller said he intends to prepare this week as if he will be the starter against New York.
"I'll do everything to make sure that I'm ready," he said. "If he can't go, then I'm the guy, and I'll be ready to fill in there."
Ten-time Pro Bowl pick Jonathan Ogden's first appearance as the starting left tackle in eight months was brief.
Ogden, who had been sidelined the entire offseason and preseason by a hyperextended toe on his left foot, limped off the field in the second quarter and did not return. Right tackle Adam Terry moved over to the left side and rookie Marshal Yanda filled in at right tackle.
Ogden came out of the locker room in the third quarter dressed in street clothes and noticeably limping to the Ravens' bench.
Linebacker Ray Lewis played with a heavily wrapped right triceps, and return specialist B.J. Sams sprained his knee in the third on a punt return.
Reed fills need
Is there anything Ed Reed can't do?
Filling in for an injured Sams, the three-time Pro Bowl safety fielded his first punt return since 2003 and took it back 63 yards to give the team its first lead, 20-19, with 12:07 left in the game.
Reed, who fielded five punt returns in 2003, hauled in the punt at the Ravens' 37-yard line at the right hash mark, roamed to his left, cut back at about the Bengals' 30 and raced into the end zone untouched.
"You hate to lose a player like B.J. He's like a brother to me," said Reed, who lodged his eighth career return for a touchdown (three interceptions, three blocked punts, a fumble recovery and a punt return). "But when [special teams] coach [Frank Gansz Jr.] told me to go back there, I told him I was just going to be smart with the ball."
Yanda and rookie fullback Le'Ron McClain had the kind of first career NFL regular-season game they will try to forget about quickly.
Yanda did team with fellow rookie Ben Grubbs, the right guard, to help running back Musa Smith score on a 6-yard run. But, Yanda also was flagged three times - twice for jumping early and once for holding.
"I hurt the team really badly tonight," Yanda said. "One holding penalty kills drives. ... I pretty much killed three drives out there. I let the team down today."
McClain earned the start at fullback over Justin Green and promptly fumbled after catching a 3-yard pass in the first quarter.
"I was trying to do too much," McClain said. "I should've just gone to the ground. I was just trying to fight for more yards, but they stood me up, and he came and hit the ball. It was a good play by him."
M. Smith's long journey
Smith did something he hadn't done since his rookie season with the Ravens: find the end zone.
Smith's 6-yard run with 11:52 left in the second quarter was his first touchdown since scoring against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 21, 2003. Smith carried the football five times for 30 yards.
"It was exciting," the running back said. "I was glad to get in there, but it wasn't like we were killing them or anything. I was glad to get in there and produce and make a play."
The 27 points surrendered by the Ravens was the most the team had allowed since giving up 42 to the Bengals in a 13-point loss on Nov. 27, 2005. ... ... The team deactivated three rookie linebackers in Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess and Edgar Jones. Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, running back Mike Anderson, cornerback Ronnie Prude and Figurs were inactive. Rookie Troy Smith was designated the third quarterback.