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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The frustration, pain and embarrassment the Baltimore Ravens endured during a disturbing loss to the Minnesota Vikings have mostly subsided. There was little chance of a temporary case of amnesia or outright denial. Especially not after brutally honest film sessions following a 30-7 loss that marks the franchise’s worst preseason loss ever.
Lingering questions remain, though, about the offensive line, an inability to capitalize on scoring situations and the entire team’s intensity. The clock is ticking fast as the Ravens have one final chance to correct their miscues prior to the regular season as they conclude the preseason Thursday against the Washington Redskins.
“We’ve beaten each other up for two days on that miserable game we played the other night,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “Thank God for the scheduling because we don’t have time to dwell on it much more.
“Sorry you weren’t here the last two days to hear it because we beat each other up pretty good. You missed a hell of a butt-chewing.”
The Ravens’ two-minute drill to alter their fortunes will probably mean Billick increasing starters’ playing time against the Redskins. That’s a departure from his tradition of having them make a one-series, token appearance in a usually meaningless outing.
Although Billick declined to elaborate specifically on how he’ll handle playing time, center Mike Flynn predicted that the starters will play until Billick is satisfied.
It’s easy to see why.
The starting offense is in the midst of a touchdown drought having gone nine consecutive drives without breaching the end zone since Aug. 11 when quarterback Steve McNair scrambled into the end zone during the opening drive of the first preseason game.
During five quarters, the Ravens starting offense has generated only 10 points for an average of two points per quarter.
“We’ve got to get back to the fast-moving, physical pace we had been playing,” said McNair, whose interception was returned 69 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota. “If we perform the way we did in the past, it’s going to be a long year so we’ve got to get things corrected.
“Absolutely, Brian didn’t hold back. We all know our performance wasn’t good enough. It’s not about calling anybody out. It’s about establishing accountability.”
The offensive line was bullied and occasionally befuddled at the line of scrimmage by an aggressive, active defensive front seven. While McNair was only sacked twice, he was forced to rush his throws because of shoddy protection.
In his first game of the preseason, All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden demonstrated obvious signs of rust and fatigue as he tangled with swift defensive end Erasmus James. “For me, personally, I have a lot of things to correct,” Ogden said. “I’ve got to find a way to get it going. We’re not supposed to go back to Minnesota because Brian said we’re talking about the Redskins now.”
The tone was set on the Ravens’ first offensive play when guard Edwin Mulitalo missed his block and running back Musa Smith was slammed to the ground by linebacker E.J. Henderson. Smith, who was limited to seven yards on four carries, said there were virtually no holes to run through.
Billick refused to criticize the blocking, but the offensive line wasn’t nearly as forgiving.
“As a professional, we’ve got to take care of our house,” Mulitalo said. “If we can do that, then collectively as a team we’re going to be good. We need to work on focus, not jumping offsides or missing blocks.”
Right tackle Tony Pashos didn’t match the athleticism and footwork of Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who recorded a sack and regularly hurried McNair.
“We played hard, but fundamentally we were bad,” Pashos said. “That’s not what we’re about this year, and we know that’s not us. We’re going to be a better team this week.”
Plus, right offensive guard Keydrick Vincent was bull-rushed by nose guard Pat Williams for one sack where he was manhandled several yards into the backfield.
“You’re always disappointed, but it’s the preseason,” Vincent said. “In this league, you have to have a short memory. You’re never as bad as your last game, and that’s what we’re banking on.”
When asked how he would respond if the line is pushed around by the Redskins, Mulitalo replied: “If it repeats itself, I’m back here telling you we’ve got to move on again. We can’t beat our heads against a wall.”
Beyond the offensive futility, the Ravens missed several tackles on defense and kicker Matt Stover missed his first field goal attempt of the preseason when he hooked a 46-yard try wide right. Several players downplayed attaching much meaning to the preseason as an accurate predictor of how the team will perform in the regular season beginning Sept. 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“You never want to get caught up in preseason scores,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “To harp on anything that deals with preseason that means nothing at the end of the day, you’re wasting your time and energy on why we came into camp.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.