An injury to a key offensive contributor could have a major impact on the Baltimore Ravens' upcoming game at the New York Jets, and the Ravens are relieved that this time it is their opponent that must replace the missing piece.
New York quarterback Chad Pennington, one of the catalysts behind the Jets' 6-2 start, was injured on a scramble in the first quarter of the Jets' 22-17 loss to Buffalo, but continued to play into the fourth quarter. An MRI exam Monday revealed a strained right rotator cuff, and he is expected to be sidelined for two to four weeks.
Quincy Carter, who led the Dallas Cowboys to a 10-6 record and the playoffs last year as the starter, will start against the Ravens. Carter completed 2 of 3 passes for 66 yards in relief of Pennington, including a 51-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss.
"We'll have to get a feel for exactly how they will use Quincy Carter, which there's limited information on, so we'll have to project a little that way," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said. "It's certainly going to affect it. Clearly, they're different-style quarterbacks. . . .
"There's nothing more dramatic in the NFL that you have to deal with than a change at quarterback, for whatever purposes, due to performance or due to injury."
The Ravens (5-3) have dealt with missing offensive pieces throughout the season: running back Jamal Lewis missed two games serving an NFL suspension, and tight end Todd Heap (ankle) and left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) have missed games. Billick said that he would wait until Wednesday to update the status of Heap and Ogden, as well as that of cornerback Deion Sanders, who left the Ravens' 27-13 win over Cleveland with a toe injury.
Billick spent part of his weekly news conference defending his play-calling in Sunday night's win. The Ravens opened with four straight passes, three of which fell incomplete. Lewis didn't get his first touch until the second play of the second series. At halftime, quarterback Kyle Boller had twice as many pass attempts (24) as Lewis had carries (12).
Lewis finished with 81 yards on 22 carries. He scored the Ravens' only offensive touchdown, a two-yard run that capped a three-play, nine-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Afterward, Lewis seemed bothered by his limited opportunities.
"We have to stick with what we know best. We got to stick with running the football early, set the tempo. I feel kind of held back," said Lewis, who ran for a combined 500 yards in two games against Cleveland last year. "I didn't feel rusty, but I kind of wanted my number called a little more."
Billick said that he and Lewis spoke earlier in the day, and that Lewis was not questioning the coaches or the play-calling. According to Billick, Lewis was just expressing frustration in that he wanted to have a bigger night, he wanted to have more of an impact, and he needed more carries to get into a rhythm.
"What Jamal was trying to say -- obviously, every back wants the ball a lot," Billick said. "He wanted to have a big game, and that was important. There's always a certain level of frustration; I wanted him to have a big game. He needs to carry the ball more. . . . Any time Jamal Lewis doesn't have 25 carries, it's probably not as good a night as we need to have."
Lewis averaged 24.2 carries per game last season, when he ran for 2,066 yards, the second-highest total in NFL history, and he had 25 or more carries in eight games. At the halfway point this season, Lewis is averaging 21.2 carries per game, and he has had only one game in which he had more than 25 carries (28 in Baltimore's 17-10 win over Washington). Kansas City's Priest Holmes, the NFL's leading rusher, averages 24.5 carries per game.
"Two weeks ago, you all were shoving it down my throat for not throwing the ball more. You guys are very tough to please," Billick said. "I imagine if Jamal carries the ball 45 times and we win the game, and Kyle's back to throwing it 18 times, [the media are] going to have to write about why aren't we throwing the ball more and how come you're not respecting the outside receivers. There's this constant balance."
Ravens Note: B.J. Sams has 364 punt return yards midway through the season, which is a new Ravens rookie record. Jermaine Lewis set the previous rookie record of 339 yards in 1996.