Boller to Start at QB for the Ravens

Rookie quarterback Troy Smith was practically Heisman-like on Sunday, twice putting the Ravens in position to win.
Rookie quarterback Troy Smith was practically Heisman-like on Sunday, twice putting the Ravens in position to win. (By Doug Benc -- Getty Images)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

OWINGS MILLS, Md., Dec. 17 -- Rookie quarterback Troy Smith led the Baltimore Ravens to a game-tying field goal in regulation and helped put them in a position to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but his performance didn't earn him a start against the Seattle Seahawks this week.

The Ravens plan to start Kyle Boller against the NFC West champions, in the hopes that the veteran can help them end an eight-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.

"We're going to continue to take the tack that we're going to go out and try to win every week," Coach Brian Billick said on Monday during his weekly news conference. "Kyle played very well and deserves the opportunity to continue to grow and get out of it what he might these last two weeks. Kyle, clearly, in my opinion, gives us the best chance to win the game, although we're prepared to go with Troy if that presents itself."

Boller is recovering from a mild concussion, which he incurred early in the fourth quarter on a hit by defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday. He did not return to the game because his vision was blurred. As of Monday, Boller was still feeling the effects -- "He's still got a bit of a headache," Billick said -- but he is expected to participate when practice resumes on Wednesday.

Smith's final numbers in the 22-16 overtime loss weren't particularly impressive -- he completed 5 of 11 passes for 49 yards -- but he was poised when the game was on the line. During the final two minutes of regulation, he drove the Ravens 59 yards without a timeout to set up a game-tying 18-yard field goal from Matt Stover. Then, in overtime, he directed a 54-yard drive that set up a potential game-winning 44-yard field goal. But Stover's kick went wide left, and the Dolphins (1-13) won the game on a long pass play.

"He did a couple of things like you'd expect from a rookie. Then obviously you saw [that] this kid is a pretty good football player," Billick said of Smith, who scored a late touchdown in Baltimore's blowout loss to Indianapolis a week earlier. "You saw some of the things: the athleticism, the strong arm, he's not one to panic, which is very good. He did some excellent things."

Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, was one of the players who lobbied Billick for the opportunity to go for the win in the final seconds of regulation; instead of settling for the 18-yard field goal, Smith wanted the chance to score on a fourth and goal from about a half yard. Billick said that he liked the fact that the players wanted to go for it, but decided that it was better to kick the field goal, particularly considering what the Ravens had done to get into that position.

"Part of the calculation was, had we gone for it, if [the Dolphins] could've snuck a 12th man on the field, all 12 would've been up in the gaps, and they would've sold out totally for the run," Billick said. "So had we gone for it, we probably would have needed to throw the ball. Because if we had run it, we'd probably -- no commentary on us offensively or the line or the ability to run the ball -- but they were going to shove everybody in there.

"So a play-action pass would've been good because their calculation would've been, maybe it's a bad pass, maybe we get a tip, maybe it's blocked or dropped. Had we done that, after what we had done to get down there, and any of those things had happened, I imagine what the critique would've been today about the play-calling."

The Ravens (4-10) close their season with two games against division leaders, at Seattle (9-5) and home against Pittsburgh (9-5). Throughout the season, the Ravens have had to recover from disappointing losses -- the season opener at Cincinnati, the near miss against undefeated New England, the blowouts to Pittsburgh and Indianapolis -- and this week will be no different, despite the special circumstances surrounding the game. The Ravens spent the week leading up to the game saying that they did not want to be the team that gave Miami its first victory of the season.

"Other than the noise that goes on around us -- which is very typical -- and the commentary that may be going on today because it was an 0-13 team and the like, yeah it's bothersome and your pride is hurt, but tomorrow is the next story," Billick said.

"The players are pretty good at moving on to the next one. That doesn't mean they don't care. I guess I would put the question to you: Would there be any value in this team carrying the emotional baggage around and getting down on itself because of that? Listening to it? They played hard yesterday. . . . So to carry that around going forward, I don't know what the upside would be."

Ravens Note: Linebacker Ray Lewis, who dislocated a finger on his left hand, should be able to play against the Seahawks, according to Billick. The finger is "very uncomfortable," but the team's trainers "think they can do enough things to splint it up and take care of it."

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