For one night, anyway, Kyle Boller separated himself from the rest of the pack in the Ravens’ quarterback derby.
The Ravens beat the Patriots, 16-15, on Thursday night when Bill Belichick decided to get the game over with early by going for two points after a late New England TD. The QB race in Baltimore rolls on though, and Boller acquitted himself fairly well on Thursday.
It wasn’t a landslide victory, mind you, mainly because the playing field wasn’t completely level. Boller played with the “first team” while Troy Smith and Joe Flacco worked with “others”. On the night, Kyle was 11-for-15 for 102 yards.
Still, Boller made several nice throws and didn’t seem to have the typical “technical glitches” that have plagued him for the better part of five years. No sign of happy feet, no throwing off of his back foot. All of the things the anti-Boller club point to as reasons why he can’t play weren’t there on Thursday. He did have a fumble and an interception – come on, you didn’t expect him to be perfect, did you? – for good measure, but his offensive line was inexperienced and gave the Pats plenty of chances to chase Boller down. Those two turnovers will fuel all of the Boller-sucks calls at WNST today and there’s no doubt your starting QB can’t have two hiccups in less than 30 minutes of work in the NFL. If that happens, you’ll lose a lot.
Overall, though, while working with an offense missing several key veterans, Boller’s performance was acceptable on Thursday night. The haters will be out in full force today (see The Sun this morning for verification of that), but you can either look at the positive and say, “that was good to see” or you can look at the negative and say “nothing’s changed.” That’s your call today.
Troy Smith went 5-for-12 for 74 yards and looked exactly like the Troy Smith of 2007. Eager to get out of the pocket and “make something happen”, Smith has a good sense of when the world is crumbling around him. He can sniff out a pass rush…an attribute that will come in handy in ’08 when he finally gets to play. His accuracy is coming into question, though, and several of his misfires on Thursday night looked sandlot-football-like. All in all, though, Smith handled his role of playing with the second-string decently, I thought.
We’ll learn more about Smith next Saturday when he starts against the Vikings. That’s his next chance to even the starting quarterback race as he’ll get the benefit of playing with more experienced players.
As for Joe Flacco…he looked exactly like a guy playing in his first NFL game. And, of course, he was. 0-for-3 in limited mop-up time, Flacco had a fumble during his stint and failed to connect on any of his throws. It didn’t look like Flacco was out of place, though. It just looked like he wasn’t working with much, talent wise, around him.
The Ravens’ defensive star of the night was Fabian Washington. One pre-season game does not a season make, but Washington’s play on Thursday should calm our fears that the Ravens secondary depth wasn’t improved in the off-season. Jim Leonhard created problems back there as well and played a big role on special teams. With the expected emergence of Nakamura and Zbikowski, the Ravens defensive backfield might be the team’s strongest department in ’08…as long as Ed Reed and Chris McAlister are healthy, that is.
All in all, it was a pretty good night for John Harbaugh’s team. The offense didn’t do much, scoring only one TD and that score was set up by a punt return to the 2-yard line. Matt Stover looked his usual reliable self with two FG’s and the defense didn’t give the Patriots much to work with. Then again, some guy named Brady didn’t play for New England. Yeah, that makes a difference. Just a little bit…
Our thanks to Bill Belichick for proving that pre-season games really don’t matter.