- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

OWINGS MILLS, Md. The Baltimore Ravens' touchdown-less offense has forced at least one loyal fan to the extreme.

The Ravens' offensive futility hasn't sent Jim Boyer over the edge, just left him perched on it. The Overlea, Md., resident has stationed himself on the roof of his tavern for the past two weeks, and he says he won't come down until the Ravens reach the end zone.

It could be a long wait.

Boyer has spent the past 14 days waiting for the Ravens to score a touchdown. Like the team's offense, he's cranky, irritable and frozen. Boyer's propane gas supply might be the only thing between him and hypothermia as winter gets closer.

If he doesn't yet have the touchdown he's seeking, he at least has some sympathy.

"He's coming down this week or I am personally going to go and take him some blankets," tight end Shannon Sharpe said.

Said defensive tackle Tony Siragusa: "That poor guy is up there, huh? If he gets hungry, tell him to give me a call, and maybe I'll stop by and bring him a pizza or something. Hopefully, he'll get down this week."

Don't bet on it.

The Ravens have not scored a touchdown in five games.

That is 20 quarters.

Fifty-eight possessions.

Or, 306 minutes and 39 seconds during October.

No matter how you put it, it adds up to one dismal fact: The Ravens are only 15 minutes away from tying the 1991 Indianapolis Colts' NFL record of 21 consecutive quarters without a touchdown.

The last time the Ravens got one, baseball's regular season was winding down and the United States was only halfway to its final medal count in Sydney.

Fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo gave fans something to remember though only dimly now when he crashed in from the 1-yard-line Sept. 24 in the fourth quarter of a 37-0 rout of the Bengals.

"I'm sick of making excuses," Sharpe said. "I used to score 12 points, 14 points a game by my damn self… . Our defense is playing their hearts out, and we're not supporting them."

Second-year coach Brian Billick believes the media is blowing the Ravens' streak out of proportion.

"If we win the game 3-0 and we get that record, you know what we still get the win," Billick said. "With the exception of putting up with some grief from [the media], it's still a win. And that's got to be the priority."

The main reason for the offensive woes is the Ravens' bumbling red-zone offense. It is next-to-last in the league and last in the AFC with a 25.9 percentage inside the opponents' 20. Only the lowly Atlanta Falcons (21.7) have a worse percentage.

The Ravens have had 27 possessions this season inside the 20 and have only seven touchdowns and 14 field goals by Matt Stover to show for them.

Turnovers near opponents goal lines have contributed heavily in the Ravens touchdown woes.

To wit:

• The Ravens had the ball at the Washington Redskins 1-yard line with 10 seconds left in the second quarter on Oct. 15. Starting quarterback Tony Banks tossed an end zone interception to linebacker Kevin Mitchell, and the Ravens wound up losing 10-3 loss.

• Banks' replacement, Trent Dilfer, picked up right where Banks left off. On his first drive as the new starter Sunday, Dilfer fumbled away the ball at the Pittsburgh Steelers 9-yard line. The Ravens went on to lose 9-6.

"It's just my personal history, but I've been through this a lot," Billick said. "If you look at the history when I was with the Minnesota Vikings in 1994, '96 and '97, we had a three-game [losing] drought and a four-game drought. We went 8-2 and went on a five-game drought. In each of those years, we got into the playoffs. It's something you deal with.

"Obviously, I'm concerned… . [But] no one can look at the way we've played and question the intensity, the effort, the want, the will and the physical aspects of what we're doing. I'll defy anybody to put film on and show me where there hasn't been a maximum amount of effort."

While the offense limps along, the defense is doing its part. The Ravens lead the NFL in total defense with 249.1 yards per game allowed and have surrendered only four touchdowns over the last six games. Luckily, Baltimore has gone 2-3 during the five-game TD drought. But the offense can't ask the defense to do any more.

"That negative re-enforcement, I don't know who that works on, so why should we do that to our own teammates," said Pro Bowl defensive end Michael McCrary. "It's frustrating as a team. If the offense loses, we lose. We're not going to turn on each other. All we can do is encourage the other unit."

Dilfer, who will start again this week, believes the key to ending the drought lies in staying upbeat and persevering.

"You have to believe; you have to take pride in the fact that you're a competitor," Dilfer said. "You have to take it one day at a time, one play at a time and eventually the bubble will burst."

Maybe.

• Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this report.

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