2007 Ravens: The Longest Yard

November 20, 2007 | Ed Frankovic

For the official record, I have been a big supporter of Brian Billick as head coach of the Ravens. Players play hard for Brian – you rarely see them quit or give up. My biggest problem with Billick this year has been with his play calling when the Ravens have needed just one yard in short yardage situations. Specifically, if Billick had just chosen to run the ball in all three of the below games where they had 2nd and 1, 3rd and 1, or 4th and 1 situations then this team, despite ALL of the injuries, could be sitting at 7-3 or 6-4 and still with a chance at the playoffs instead of 4-6.

Week 1 – Score: Baltimore 20 Cincinnati 19

3rd and 1 with 9:43 remaining on Baltimore 35: Pass by McNair to Mason intercepted and returned to Baltimore 22 yard line.

This interception led to Cincinnati’s game winning touchdown on a very short field. COMMENT: Mason was wide open on this play and McNair overthrew him but the coaches had to know McNair was not right judging by the way his passes were sailing high all game so a run still was the safest and surest call, especially in their own territory. What makes this turnover worse was had they ran and not gotten the first down and punted they still might have won given the way the Ravens defense was playing that night.

Week 7 – Score: Buffalo 19 Baltimore 14

2nd and 1 with 1:59 remaining on the Buffalo 49: Pass by Boller to Williams is incomplete

3rd and 1 with 1:52 remaining on Buffalo 49: Pass by Boller to Clayton is incomplete

4th and 1 with 1:49 remaining on Buffalo 49: Pass by Boller to Smith is incomplete.

After that the Bills pretty much ran the clock out on Baltimore.

Week 12 – Score: Ravens 27 Cleveland 27

2nd and 1 with 38 seconds left on Cleveland 29: Pass by Boller to Mason is incomplete

3rd and 1 with 35 seconds left on Cleveland 29: Pass by Boller to Sypniewski is incomplete

4th and 1 with 31 seconds left on Cleveland 29: Stover kicks 47 yard FG to go up 30-27 but the Ravens leave 26 seconds on the clock and lose 33-30 in overtime.

The thing that is more mind boggling about this is that the Ravens have a very good running back in Willis McGahee and he should have easily gotten the first down in those situations (or at least a QB sneak, like we saw Kyle Boller do yesterday, might have worked). Sometimes I think Billick outthinks himself by not just lining up and smashing the ball down the other teams throat in short yardage. In fact, in the Buffalo and Cleveland game McGahee had over 100 yards rushing so it wasn’t like the Ravens were having trouble running the ball. We heard Ray Lewis criticize Billick on Ray’s radio show about this a couple of weeks ago (Ray should have kept his mouth shut in public but the statements are true) and the lack of running in short yardage has been mentioned many times by the media in this city and on this site. But I think it bears mentioning again because the play calling didn’t change even after all of the previous criticism. Shoot, even a run yesterday on the Cleveland 29 probably would have the Ravens sitting at 5-5 with a slight chance of making the playoffs. Especially since I think 9-7 will get a team in to the playoffs like it did last year (Kansas City). Now they are pretty much done and playing for their draft pick and some experience for the younger players. This just shows how slim the difference is in the NFL between being a playoff team and one that is playing out the string for next year.