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For the second consecutive week, the reigning AFC North champions spent their Monday ruminating about how they collapsed in the fourth quarter and surrendered a 17-point cushion.
This time, the Ravens relived watching Arizona Cardinals backup quarterback Kurt Warner’s expert running of the no-huddle offense to complete 11 of 14 passes for 151 yards in the fourth quarter as he continually targeted cornerback Corey Ivy and nickel back Ronnie Prude due to the absence of starter Samari Rolle with an undisclosed illness.
"We had to keep moving people around," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Monday following the Ravens’ 26-23 victory. "That left us a little vulnerable. We weren’t ready for it.
"We adjusted as best we could, and it caught us off-guard a little bit. It created some difficulty. Fortunately, we rebounded enough to overcome it."
Billick aggressively defended the team’s track record, pointing out twice that the Ravens are now 50-1 with a 14-point lead during his tenure.
He even went on to detail how the Ravens spend their typical Monday dissecting game film, beginning with his own personal review at 8:30 a.m. until a two-hour meeting with the coaching staff at 10 a.m., an additional hour with general manager Ozzie Newsome and the scouting department during lunchtime followed by 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon with the players.
"There’s a constant critique," Billick said. "Where were we wrong? Where were we right? Why did you do this? Why did you do that? At the end of the day, I’m not going to let the team forget we won the two games and we are now 50-1 with a 14-point lead."
But for how much longer? Particularly as the difficulty of opponents increases later in the season.
The Ravens’ lack of a pass rush Sunday exacerbated their problems in the secondary at covering star wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald as Boldin caught a career-high 14 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Baltimore allowed 311 passing yards with 24 out of 40 passes completed, no interceptions and an average gain of 7.4 yards per pass attempt.
"It’s not something that we like to do every week," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "But as long as we walk away with the victory, in the end, that’s all that matters."
With defensive end Trevor Pryce sidelined with a broken wrist, Baltimore recorded only one sack and that came on a blitz from Ivy. Through three games, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott have no sacks and Ivy actually leads the team with two sacks.
Warner had plenty of time to pick apart the secondary, which clearly missed Rolle and was shocked to see Warner in the game in the first place.
"We were having to do a lot of three-man and four-man rushes, an inordinate number on our behalf," Billick said. "You have a guy with a different temperament, a different style, a different touch on the ball. Our defense is very good at isolating what tendencies a quarterback may have, but you throw a new guy in there with a no-huddle and we had to adjust.
"This group will respond. They’re a prideful group. To let happen what happened last week and this week as well, I’m not going to have a tough time motivating them."
INJURY UPDATE: Ravens tight end Todd Heap is expected to be back for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns despite a mild concussion. Heap caught four passes for 60 yards, including a reception where he was jolted in the head by hard-hitting safety Adrian Wilson during the final series. Wilson was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
"He had a mild concussion, which means that it wasn’t you or I that had the concussion," Billick said. "That’s what mild means to me. It was more in terms of the neck and the stinger. I think Todd will be fine. We’ll see on Wednesday. He took a heck of a hit."
Billick said that other than Pryce, who could return as soon as the St. Louis Rams game on Oct. 14 or as late as the Pittsburgh Steelers game on Nov. 5, that no other player has been ruled out for Cleveland. Of course, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) remains a question mark.
"We’re fairly healthy," Billick said.
Rolle is expected to return Sunday as well.
"He had an illness that obviously required some medication, but we anticipate he’ll be fine this week," Billick said.
NO SECOND-GUESSING: Billick expressed no regrets at playing Ogden in the season-opener when he injured the ball of his left foot.
"There was a plan and we adhered to it," Billick said. "We didn’t push J.O. ahead of the sequencing. He felt like he could go. J.O. will come back when J.O. comes back to us."
FLAGS ON THE FIELD: The Ravens were flagged for two unusual penalties Sunday with a 15-yard excessive celebration flag drawn by wide receiver Devard Darling for jumping into the stands following Yamon Figurs’ 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
"Devard Darling threw a huge block to spring Yamon Figurs, the guy was excited and you do something that’s spontaneous," Billick said. "That’s the rule, though."
Plus, wide receiver Demetrius Williams was penalized for a five-yard delay of game when he spun the ball on the ground following an acrobatic, 26-yard reception.
"I just got caught up in the moment, but I didn’t think it was that bad," Williams said. "You just have to be careful and be sure the refs aren’t watching. I got caught."
QUOTEABLE: Billick on kicker Matt Stover’s value: "I’m still here because Matt Stover’s here."
QUICK HITS: Billick reiterated why running back Mike Anderson was deactivated for the second week in a row. With running back Musa Smith playing several snaps on special teams and operating as the third-down back along with injury concerns at other positions, Anderson could continue to be the odd man out with only 45 players active on game days. "Mike is healthy and ready to go," Billick said. "We’re going to need Mike at some point." … Billick complimented former Ravens quarterback Derek Anderson, the Browns starter, but didn’t acknowledge a mistake in cutting him after training camp in 2005. "We thought we’d get him on the developmental squad," Billick said. "You make those decisions, it’s tough. We’d love to have him here, but you can’t keep them all." … Billick agreed with the penalty on Wilson. "It’s a fine line as to what is leading with the head and hitting a defenseless guy," Billick said. "I think it was clear-cut, and I think the penalty was justified." … Center Mike Flynn dislocated the middle finger on his right hand, but X-rays were negative.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.