-- For once, the problem with the Baltimore Ravens' offense was not its inability to move the football. The Ravens were able to sustain drives against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night; they converted 50 percent of their third downs (9 for 18) and were forced to punt once.
Instead, the problem was Baltimore's inability to score touchdowns. The Ravens scored a touchdown on their opening drive, but that was it -- they had to settle for four field goals from place kicker Matt Stover. And in the aftermath of a 20-19 loss to the Steelers, they could only ponder the what-ifs.
"We scored field goals, and maybe some of those should have been touchdowns, and when you come up that short -- one point -- it's tough," guard Edwin Mulitalo said after the game.
The Ravens made some unsuccessful attempts trying to reach the end zone; wide receiver Randy Hymes caught a jump ball in the end zone but landed out of bounds on one occasion, and tight end Todd Heap tried to leap for another pass but couldn't catch it.
"It wasn't for lack of shots," Coach Brian Billick said during his weekly news conference on Tuesday. "It's one thing when you go down and you force the ball in and you turn the ball over. We've done that. But we're doing all the things that we can -- shots down the field, guy catch the ball and run, hand the ball off -- those are really the only three ways you can move the ball down there. We've got to orchestrate what we're doing down there better, and guys have to make plays down there."
This has been a recurring concern for the Ravens, who have scored the fewest touchdowns in the NFL (seven). Baltimore has made 18 trips into the red zone and has seven touchdowns -- a conversion rate of 38.9 percent -- and six field goals. (The San Diego Chargers, in comparison, lead the AFC in red zone offense with 20 touchdowns on 28 trips, or 71.4 percent.)
Quarterback Anthony Wright has thrown two interceptions inside the 20-yard line. The Ravens have one rushing touchdown this season, a one-yard run by Jamal Lewis in the third quarter of a 13-3 win over the New York Jets on Oct. 2.
"At some time, we ought to be able to run the ball in," Billick said, "which leads us back to, we've got to get back to running the ball a little more consistently."
Against the Steelers, Lewis ran for 61 yards on 17 carries. He finally looked like the physical running back who rushed for more than 3,000 yards over the past two seasons -- not the tentative back who gained 326 yards in the first six games and admitted to being worried about getting injured in the final year of his contract.
Lewis failed to gain yards on two carries against the Steelers. His most impressive run of the night was also his most unfortunate. Early in the second quarter, on first and 10 from the Baltimore 1-yard line, Lewis spun out of a tackle in the end zone and tried to blast his way past cornerback Deshea Townsend. Lewis fumbled as he tried to overpower Townsend at the 7-yard line, and Pittsburgh recovered.
"You saw a more physical style or approach in hitting the hole," Billick said of Lewis. "You saw those good tough runs, taking a couple of guys, always getting positive yards, and that is Jamal's game. We expect to build on that with every week. I liked what I saw in terms of the temperament via particularly what we talked about all last week with Jamal."
Baltimore is 2-5 and is tied for last place in the AFC North with Cleveland. Billick conceded that winning the division would be "a hell of a climb," considering Cincinnati is 6-2 and Pittsburgh is 5-2. But he is hopeful the Ravens can put together a run for the wild card, though that essentially would require them to win eight of their final nine games. Baltimore hosts Cincinnati on Sunday.
"That's that hook I'm talking about. Why would you not hold on to the potential for that for as long as you possibly can?" Billick said. "These guys, the way they played last night, tells me they're holding onto that."
Raven Notes: It is highly unlikely quarterback Kyle Boller will be ready to play against the Bengals on Sunday. Boller, who has not played since hyperextending his right big toe in the season opener, served as the scout team quarterback last week, but he experienced soreness after two days of practice. The hope is that Boller will be able to practice without soreness this week, with the goal of being able to play on Nov. 13 at Jacksonville.
"That would be the hope, but I'm now in some gray area as to how he feels," Billick said. "The time frame we were hoping for just isn't happening now." . . .
Defensive end Anthony Weaver (toe), fullback Ovie Mughelli (ankle) and wide receiver Mark Clayton (ankle) -- all of whom were inactive for the past two games -- are the closest to returning, and Billick is optimistic they could play this week. Safety Ed Reed (ankle) probably will not be available on Sunday, and linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh) is out until the end of the month. . . .
Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens' low-profile owner, addressed the entire organization early last week, and several players said they came away from the meeting feeling inspired.
"Sometimes it's easy to feel isolated from one another because of the nature of what we do, but I think the organization as a whole appreciated the concept that we are truly in all this together," Billick said.