Ravens flagged for lack of progress

The Baltimore Sun

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It was the kind of sloppiness you'd expect in the third week of the preseason, not the seventh week of the regular season. It was the kind of sloppiness you'd expect from a team going nowhere, not a team that many once considered among the NFL's elite.

The sloppiness started on the second play from scrimmage in the Ravens' 19-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills yesterday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

In perfect weather against an imperfect team, the sloppiness for the Ravens has turned into the muck of a season.

Yesterday's mistakes began when linebacker Terrell Suggs jumped offside. It continued with three more offside penalties before the end of the first quarter, five overall in the first half.

Just to show that it takes awhile for the Ravens' offense to catch up with the defense, the Ravens committed two straight false starts on their opening second-half drive.

For the game, the Ravens had 11 penalties for 91 yards.

Wasn't this the way Ravens started the preseason more than two months ago?

Weren't the mental errors supposed to be corrected on those dog days of August at McDaniel College?

"We did enough things on all sides of the ball to put us at risk today," Ravens coach Brian Billick said after the game.

If it were just the rookies making mistakes, such as when linemen Ben Grubbs and Jared Gaither committed the back-to-back false start penalties, it might be more understandable, though no less acceptable.

But how about former Pro Bowl cornerback Samari Rolle reaching over the line of scrimmage to touch a Bills receiver? Rolle, whose late interception gave the Ravens a chance at a comeback, declined to comment.

"I don't want to say something and get fined," Rolle said.

Billick implied that there was more going on with his team than merely jumping prematurely at the snap count used by Bills rookie quarterback Trent Edwards in the team's no-huddle offense at the start of the game or playing with an offensive line reshuffled by injuries.

Asked about his team's apparent lack of focus, Billick said, "Life creates a lack of focus, in terms of things going on, your personal life, the bye coming up afterward, every team has to deal with it. They worked hard during the week but you knew focus was going to be the key."

Said Suggs: "A couple of guys jumped offside, but I don't think you can say that's where the game was won or lost. Definitely not."

Jason Brown didn't have any false starts yesterday, as he did a couple of times last week, but the guard, whose wife is expecting their first child next week, said every player needs to take a look in the proverbial mirror.

"It takes an individual accountability, from every single person," Brown said in the cramped and quiet Ravens locker room. "Last week was the first time this year that I had [false starts], and I had to re-evaluate my mental focus and say, my responsibility is not to hurt my teammates or myself or jeopardize our performance."

Defensive tackle Justin Bannan chose not to make excuses.

"It's our fault. I jumped offsides, and I let my defense down, and you just can't do those things," Bannan said. "It's mistakes like that, we're just giving it to them. You can't do that, especially on the road. I really couldn't tell you the reason for it."

At this time of the season, teams with realistic playoff plans shouldn't be making the kind of mistakes the Ravens did yesterday.

"It shouldn't, but it did," Brown said. "I'm sure there'll be adjustments."

Given that it's the seventh week of the regular season and not the third week of the preseason, a collective lack of focus might be the hardest thing to fix.


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