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BALTIMORE — Kyle Boller is slated to remain under center for the Baltimore Ravens next week with starting quarterback Steve McNair still recovering from back and groin injuries.
After Boller started during the Ravens’ 22-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Ravens coach Brian Billick declared that Boller will probably start against the Buffalo Bills.
That time table, including the Ravens’ bye following next week’s game, would mean that McNair wouldn’t return until a pivotal AFC North road game Nov. 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We’ve got to get Steve fully healthy," Billick said. "It’s in our best interest to come back after the bye with Steve fully healthy. I don’t know that we’re going to do that with just one week’s time."
When asked if McNair would be able to play against Buffalo, Billick replied: "It’s unlikely."
Boller, who took a beating behind an inexperienced offensive line, completed 18 of 30 passes for 184 yards in his second start of the season.
Still, he improved to 2-0 as a starter this year and 15-4 for his career as a starter at M&T Bank Stadium, where he has won his past six starts.
While Boller did connect with wide receivers Demetrius Williams and Derrick Mason from 34 and 28 yards, respectively, he also missed some big opportunities as Baltimore went 1-for-5 in the red zone.
"I did all right," Boller said. "I missed some shots and we have a young offensive line out there, too. For the most part, we hung in there. We got the win, that’s the main thing."
Boller nearly had to be replaced by McNair in the second quarter when he got his leg tangled up after an incomplete pass.
"I got my knee jammed pretty bad," Boller said. "It kind of locked up on me a little bit. I kind of just got through it and hopefully it won’t be that sore."
McNair began warming up on the sideline, and the Ravens had to burn a timeout to keep Boller in the game after he received medical attention.
"I was staying in," Boller said. "It was nothing that I couldn’t continue to play."
For the season, Boller has completed 63 percent of his throws for 471 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a 76.7 rating.
Billick was noncommittal when asked to evaluate Boller’s performance.
"I have to look at it, but we won, so it can’t be too bad," he said.
Boller did seem to provide the Ravens a boost with his superior mobility and arm strength. However, his accuracy was far from pinpoint.
"It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is in this offense," Mason said. "I think we have two very good quarterbacks who can come in and get the job done. Of course, we want Steve to play, but Steve knows when he needs to rest or not.
"You don’t hesitate to put Kyle in, because you know he has the experience and you know he’s going to go out there and do what he needs to do to win. Whether Steve played or Kyle or even Troy Smith, we were going to try do what we did.â€
Baltimore averaged just 5.3 yards per passing play.
The vertical game remains a struggle regardless of whether it’s McNair or Boller running the offense.
"You can take all the shots you want downfield, if you don’t complete them, it still doesn’t add up," Billick said. "We’ll continue to try to stretch the field as best as we can."
ROLLE-ING: Cornerback Samari Rolle made a triumphant return after missing the past three games with an undisclosed illness that briefly hospitalized him.
Rolle aided a defense that intercepted a franchise-record five passes. He nearly intercepted one, but dropped an errant throw as he was limited primarily to nickel duties with Corey Ivy starting again.
"I did feel a little rusty, I only practiced two days in almost a month," Rolle said. "I kind of thought that I would get one. All the defensive backs were getting them. I’m glad I was just able to make it through, and I was happy with how the coaches used me."
For Rolle, it was a heart-warming day following an ordeal that included a lethargic reaction to medication initially prescribed to treat his illness.
"It was very gratifying, knowing I am able to come back on the professional level," Rolle said. "That pick, that’s going to be with me all night. I’m probably going to hear about it."
Rolle’s teammates greeted his arrival with praise.
"He went out there and got his feet wet once again," Ivy said. "Him being off a long time, it was good seeing him out there knowing he had my back and I had his back."
Added cornerback Chris McAlister: "It was good to have my buddy out there. Itâ€™s been a while. I miss him on the field."
FIRST TD RUN: Running back Willis McGahee only gained 61 yards on 25 carries, but he managed to find the end zone on the ground for the first time since being acquired in an offseason trade.
His six-yard touchdown run behind rookie offensive guard Ben Grubbs’ powerful lead block staked Baltimore to a 13-0 halftime advantage.
"It’s all good, I’m happy," said McGahee, who averaged 2.4 yards per carry. "Everybody’s happy. We finally scored in the red zone."
McGahee seemed to be banged-up, receiving extensive treatment afterward and limping slightly.
"I got a whole body treatment," he said. "It wasn’t an easy day."
McGahee, who makes his first trip back to Buffalo next weekend since being traded to Baltimore after a disgruntled final season in upstate New York, didn’t want to talk about the Bills.
"No, I look forward to treatment, because I’m really hurting right now,â€ he said.
INJURY UPDATE: Tight end Todd Heap left the game after aggravating his lower hamstring pull and didn’t return.
It’s uncertain whether Heap will be available against the Bills or if he’ll opt to sit out and not play until after the bye week.
"We’ll see how it goes," Heaps said. "It wasn’t as bad as when it first happened."
SUGGS’ SACK: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs ended his streak of games without a sack, dumping his first quarterback for a loss since the regular-season finale last year against the Buffalo Bills.
It’s a big sigh of relief for Suggs, who’s in the final year of his contract.
"A weight’s been lifted," said Suggs, whose pass-rushing opportunities have been hampered by the absence of injured defensive end Trevor Pryce.
Registering a sack didn’t come easy for Suggs, who had an earlier sack negated by a penalty. Plus, he accused Rams offensive guard Richie Incognito of illegal tactics.
"There’s no way to sugar-coat it," Suggs said. "He was playing kind of dirty. But he’s an offensive lineman playing in the trenches, so he’s got to play kind of dirty."
QUICK HITS: Mason caught five passes for a game-high 79 yards. He has 49 catches for 451 yards, a 9.2 average, with one touchdown. … The Ravens deactivated quarterback Troy Smith, cornerback David Pittman, center Mike Flynn (sprained medial collateral ligament), offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and Adam Terry (sprained ankle), tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained toe), Pryce (broken wrist) and linebacker Edgar Jones. … The Ravens are 8-1 in their last nine games against NFC opponents and 3-0 against the NFC West this season. … Safety Ed Reed intercepted his all-time franchise-leading 31st pass. … It was the fourth time in franchise history that Baltimore had at least four interceptions and four sacks. … Matt Stover’s five field goals tied a career-high and a club record. He has an NFL-high 18 field goals. … The six turnovers ties the franchise record, a mark equaled four other times. The last time it happened was last season against the Oakland Raiders.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.