When Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick watched films of Sunday's 31-24 victory over Pittsburgh, he saw a number of mistakes--dropped passes by the receivers, poor coverage by the secondary and four fumbles. But as poorly as Baltimore played in some aspects of the game, the Ravens still managed to come away with a win. That in itself is a significant accomplishment for a team that has more often found ways to lose.
The players "know there's a lot of corrections that need to be made," Billick said this afternoon. "There's any number of things that happened in that game that could have changed the fortunes of it one way or the other. Now the task before them is to know and learn very quickly what it is to play a game in December that means something, that has some value to it."
Usually at this point in the season, Baltimore (6-7) is playing the role of the spoiler, seeking to ruin another team's chances at the playoffs. The playoffs might be an optimistic goal for the Ravens. But even if they are unable to reach the postseason, there's something to be gained from this upcoming stretch of games.
"Learning how to conduct ourselves in December is going to make a difference maybe this year, maybe not, but definitely next year and the year after that," Billick said. "That's all part of the learning curve for these guys. I'm going to optimize it as best I can to make sure that there are lessons that we hold on to, not only this year, but in the future."
In the Pittsburgh game, Billick saw two players--quarterback Tony Banks and wide receiver Qadry Ismail--make significant strides. Banks did not complete a pass until the final minute of the first quarter and was sacked three times and fumbled once. At halftime, he had completed just 3 of 17 passes. But Banks threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter.
Billick said: "I went over to Tony [in the third quarter] and said, 'Of all the things that you've done, this may have been one of the most impressive. You can build on this because I've not seen that from you before. To shrug that off, particularly when it's not necessarily your fault.' . . . He fought through that very well and obviously came back and made some great plays for us."
When Ismail caught his first touchdown pass and took a strong hit from safety Scott Shields, he refused to collapse and continued running to the end zone. Billick contrasted that scenario with the Ismail he knew when they were together in Minnesota.
"The old Qadry Ismail when he got hit in the ribs and the stomach . . . would have gone down like a ton of bricks and not felt bad about it," Billick said. "He got that hit and caught himself going down [then said] 'Nah, nah, nah. I'm not running back to that sideline to face Brian, after going down when I could have stayed up.' That shows some grit."