Ravens need switch in intensity before lights go out on season

The Baltimore Sun

CLEVELAND-- --Instead of reviewing the video of yesterday's 27-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens ought to burn it and just use the game as a wake-up call for the rest of the 2007 season.

Playoff contender? Not now, not after yesterday. Super Bowl contender? Please, no jokes. This is the time for some reflection and humility. Maybe the Ravens need to rededicate themselves, because a sense of urgency has arrived.

That's what this team needs. After going 13-3 last season and making an early exit from the playoffs, the Ravens swore they had some unfinished business this season.

But unlike a year ago, something has been missing. The roster is basically the same and the work ethic has been good, but the Ravens believe they can turn it on and off when they want.

Well, they better turn it on.

They're 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the AFC North. It's a big hole. And with a trip to the West Coast to face the San Francisco 49ers next weekend, it could get deeper.

But the Ravens are a veteran team. Maybe they need their backs to the wall to bring out the best. It now becomes a pride issue because the Ravens were embarrassed yesterday.

They were lethargic and got outhit. They dropped a game many had picked them to win, and losses to teams like the Browns will hurt in the second half of the season, when the schedule gets tougher.

We've seen the Ravens turn it on and off at various points in the first four games, but they're going to need a string of consistent efforts, especially against division foes. It's time to step up or step back.

Hold that flag


That's all I could say after listening to Ravens coach Brian Billick explain why he was so slow on challenging Browns running back Jamal Lewis' touchdown dive in the second quarter.

It was obvious that Lewis didn't get in, and it seemed like it took a leap year for the Browns to snap the ball on the extra point. And we kept waiting and waiting and waiting for Billlick to throw the red flag. And when he did, it was too late.

"There were a number of things," Billick said. "[The refs] told me it was second down when it was third down. They told me it was third down when it was second. The officiating matched our play."

Two suggestions

Before yesterday's game, the Browns had the 31st-ranked rushing defense in the league, allowing 176.3 yards per game. Yet, Ravens running back Willis McGahee got only 14 carries (for 104 yards).

So here's a memo to offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel, since Billick won't listen to me: Please run the ball.

And here's a suggestion to McGahee, who can't figure out why he doesn't have success in the red zone: Look, son, this is not Soul Train. Quit dancing, hit the hole hard and accelerate.

A bit of payback

Lewis said he had a lot of fun playing against his old teammates. Lewis finished with 64 yards on 23 carries, had one touchdown and a long run of 28 yards. On that run, it was vintage Lewis with the burst outside and then the stiff arms to safeties Dawan Landry and Ed Reed.

Lewis said there was a lot of friendly banter going on among himself, Reed and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"It was like being back in 9-on-7 [drills] in training camp at McDaniel College," Jamal Lewis said. "Afterward, they all came over and we wished each other well."

Before the game, however, Lewis did tell his Browns teammates how the Ravens really felt about them.

"I told them that the Ravens don't feel like we can beat them, that they believe they are more physical and we can't match their effort."

Maybe the Ravens started believing it, too, because the Browns outplayed them in every phase of the game.

Figurs' fumble

One player who might be a head case this week is rookie Yamon Figurs. After his fumble on a kickoff led to Jamal Lewis' touchdown in the second quarter, he was never the same. He was more content to cover up the ball instead of trying to run hard through a hole.

Figurs needs to learn that fumbling is part of the game, and there are ways to avoid it, if he really wants to work hard.

Man in the middle

It was interesting to see Ray Lewis having animated discussions with assistant coaches on the sideline. We hear that Lewis wants to be the sole middle linebacker like the old days instead of sharing the inside position with Bart Scott.

Instead of using so much deception in coordinator Rex Ryan's schemes, Lewis wants to get back in the middle, where he can run sideline to sideline. And that makes sense, because that's Lewis' strength.

Final thoughts

Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister got torched by Browns receiver Braylon Edwards, who blew by him on a play-action pass for a 78-yard touchdown in the first quarter. It was a nasty fake inside, and then - boom! - all McAlister saw was Edwards' back.

Matt Stover has to be beside himself after missing 46- and 41-yard field-goal attempts. Stover will bounce back because he has that type of confidence in himself. He's a perfectionist and will spend the next few days poring over his mechanics until he makes himself sick.

When the Ravens were down 27-6 with 4:12 left in the third quarter, shouldn't they have been in a hurry-up offense, trying to use less time to rally back? Instead, they took their good, old time getting in and out of the huddle.

Since quarterback Steve McNair is playing more and more like Kyle Boller, why not allow Boller to play to see if he can play like the old McNair? I'm just joking, folks. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on McNair, but my arm is getting warm. There is no way he should be throwing 53 passes.


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