-- Perhaps Baltimore Ravens defensive end Anthony Weaver was stating the obvious on Sunday afternoon when he said his team is not very good at the moment. Still, it was a painful realization for a team expected to be a playoff contender. Even Coach Brian Billick, who opened the season by saying this group had the most talent in his head coaching tenure, couldn't dispute it.
"The key is right now," Billick said on Monday during his weekly news conference. "You can't look at 2-7 and say we're a good football team, so we're not going to worry about it. I agree with Anthony. We're not a good football team right now, but we have seven games, seven opportunities beginning with this week, to change that."
However, few signs point to the Ravens, who host AFC North rival Pittsburgh (7-2) on Sunday, being prepared to change anything. Baltimore has lost four straight games, the longest streak in Billick's seven-year tenure and tied for the longest such streak in franchise history. The Ravens also have not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of their 20-19 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 31 -- a drought that spans 11 quarters.
The Ravens beat the New York Jets, 20-17, in overtime on Nov. 14, 2004, a game that was significant in two respects: It was Baltimore's last win on the road and its last victory over a team with a winning record. The Ravens were 6-3 after that game, but have gone 5-11 since.
The forthright Weaver bemoaned the Ravens' inability to sustain momentum in Sunday's 30-3 loss at Jacksonville -- something that has been an issue throughout the season. The Ravens had two opportunities to build momentum and take control of the game, but whiffed on both. On the Jaguars' opening drive, the Ravens stuffed fullback Greg Jones on fourth and one at the Baltimore 38. Baltimore's offense then drove to the Jacksonville 21, but failed to convert a third and two, settling for a 41-yard field goal from Matt Stover.
At least the Ravens scored on that drive. In the third quarter, Baltimore marched to the Jacksonville 15, but quarterback Kyle Boller was intercepted on third down. The Jaguars subsequently took possession and drove 92 yards, scoring on a one-yard run from Jones. Jacksonville led 17-3, and the game was effectively over with nearly 17 minutes to play.
"At that point, this team was going to struggle," said Billick, whose offense gained one more first down the rest of the way. "The sheer emotional burden of overcoming that, of missing that opportunity, and it's hard to fight back from that situation. So that's what that team is dealing with right now. It's the confidence in itself and being able to turn or maintain a certain amount of momentum. There are times when we've done it, but obviously not enough."
Baltimore has not come up with a true game-changing play this season. Last season, the Ravens scored nine touchdowns off returns (five on interceptions, two on punts, and two on fumble returns); this year, they are one of four teams that have not scored on a return. The Ravens' defense, which in the past had been so opportunistic, has forced only nine turnovers.
The offense, meantime, has struggled. The Ravens upgraded their talent by bringing in playmaking wide receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton during the offseason, but those moves have yet to pay off. A frustrated Mason referred to "talent without progress" and "talent without results" when talking about the offense on Sunday.
Running back Jamal Lewis is averaging three yards per carry and has one run of longer than 20 yards, which came in the first quarter of the Ravens' first game against Indianapolis. Boller, in his first start since being sidelined in the season opener with a hyperextended big toe, played poorly against the Jaguars, throwing three interceptions. He was sacked four times. Boller (19 of 33 for 142 yards) missed receivers -- he bounced one pass to Randy Hymes -- and tried to force a couple of throws.
"Kyle did not play particularly well; he played like a guy that's been on the bench for seven weeks," Billick said. "One good thing about Kyle, in his history, when he makes mistakes, he tends not to come back and make the same mistakes. His M.O. has been, his interceptions seem to get clustered in the games, and hopefully we can build on that."
Ravens Notes: Sunday's game, which was scheduled for 4:15 p.m., will begin at 1 p.m. . . .
Safety Ed Reed, who has missed the past four games with a high ankle sprain, is out of his walking cast, but the team will wait until later in the week to make a determination on his availability. Billick said it is unlikely linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh) will play this weekend. . . .
Running back Chester Taylor was limited to special teams in Jacksonville because he missed all of last week's practices due to personal reasons. Taylor has been one of the Ravens few offensive weapons this year; he is responsible for the Ravens' only touchdown in the past four games. He'll "be a big part of the game plan this week," Billick said. . . .
The Ravens' All Community Team Foundation purchased home and away uniforms for the girls' varsity basketball teams at the 19 Baltimore city public schools. Earlier in the year, the Ravens, owner Steve Bisciotti and Ray Lewis donated complete uniform sets to the city's varsity football programs.