Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick said he knows that Sunday's 27-10 loss to St. Louis did not come without a price. Although 15 games remain, the Ravens' setback was a blow after a promising preseason.
"Clearly that was a game we could have won, that we were capable of winning without a real stretch of the imagination or extending ourselves too far, with no disrespect meant to the Rams," Billick said today. "Those type of games . . . they cost you something. They always do. There's that one game that keeps you from that winning season or that entry into the playoffs or home-field advantage for the first round."
After an undefeated preseason, the Ravens played poorly in their opener in all aspects of the game. Baltimore could not establish a passing or running game. The defense yielded 375 yards. The special teams broke down on kick returns. The Ravens were penalized 11 times for 106 yards. Billick couldn't even win an instant replay challenge.
But what upset Billick most was his players' lack of intensity.
"That's probably what surprised me because up to this point this team had been very physical and it had played physical and it has played with a sense of physical urgency," Billick said. "That is what had caught me so off-guard on Sunday is that we didn't play with quite that same intensity."
Billick said the game film showed that few mental errors were made. The players were where they needed to be. They just did not get the job done once they got into position.
"It sounds like a dichotomy because I'm saying that there was a good solid effort, but there was a lack of physical intensity about them," Billick said. "This is a vicious, violent game. If you don't take that mentality into every week, then you're not going to play well, and God forbid, you're going to get hurt."
Billick had said before the game that he was going to wrap his offense around quarterback Scott Mitchell, and although Mitchell struggled to find an offensive rhythm and made some poor decisions, Billick said he will stick with his original plan.
"There were no huge blatant errors," Billick said. "Scott Mitchell is a proven quarterback. I think he will show for us what he is capable of doing. [But] there are no guarantees whatsoever. . . . You cannot, at that position, dangle it on a string and at the whim of the media or the fans reinsert someone else or do something based on that type of whimsy."
Some of the problems with Baltimore's defense, which gave up 316 passing yards, can be attributed to not having two of its top pass-rush specialists at full speed. Strong side linebacker Peter Boulware must wear a harness to protect his injured right shoulder. Defensive end Michael McCrary needs to improve his conditioning after not playing a down during the preseason because of offseason knee surgery.
"We need a full-go, 100 percent Peter Boulware and a completely in-shape Michael McCrary to be a good defense," Billick said. "That's a major part of what we are and the pressure that we can bring to bear."
After film sessions and a light workout today, the players have Tuesday off. On Wednesday, they begin preparations for Pittsburgh.
"Obviously we can improve on some things," defensive tackle Larry Webster said. "It's going to get better week by week as the season goes on. Mistakes were made. That is what the film work is for. Go in there, look at which ones were made, get them corrected and go on."