- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

Brian Billick's credentials as an offensive genius may now need to be seriously reviewed.

Billick's Ravens yesterday continued their puzzling offensive drought, scoring only on Matt Stover's 51-yard field goal in the 10-3 loss to the Washington Redskins and extending their touchdown drought to 12 quarters. The Ravens last scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 37-0 win against Cincinnati on Sept. 24.

The Ravens had several chances against the Redskins, venturing into Washington territory four times. But in each instance, Baltimore made key mistakes when it already had little margin of error against a rapidly improving Washington defense.

An offensive holding penalty against receiver Qadry Ismail midway through the second quarter stalled a promising drive, generating just the Stover field goal. On its next possession, Baltimore drove to the Redskins 1 with 10 seconds left in the first half. With two timeouts to burn, Baltimore seemingly could have called a run. But Banks instead threw a pass over the middle that was picked off in the end zone by linebacker Kevin Mitchell.

Billick likely will be second-guessed for weeks for not calling a running play just before halftime, when even a field goal and a 6-3 halftime lead would have changed the game's momentum significantly.

"If we hadn't punched it in, I'm not sure we could have gotten untangled and the clock stopped in time," Billick said. "With a pass, either we get a touchdown or the clock stopped right away. But [the interception] was clearly a situation that showed we need to be a lot more efficient and smarter with the ball."

Two long drives in the second half that put Baltimore within Stover's range were killed by false-start penalties.

The woeful offensive performance left Billick, the highly touted architect of a Minnesota offense that set an NFL scoring record two years ago, and his team without any clear answers heading into a key AFC Central clash Sunday against Tennessee.

"Obviously we have to score more points, we have to get better in the red zone, we have to do much better on third down," Billick said. "We have to go back to fundamentals, isolate the things that we are doing well and find a way to move the ball downfield.

"But Tony Banks is my starting quarterback without question. He's the guy I think gives us the best chance to win right now," he said, attempting to squelch any talk of starting backup Trent Dilfer.

Banks converted just five of 13 third downs and has shown an increasing and costly weakness with clock management.

"I don't have any firm answers as to what's going on," said tight end Shannon Sharpe. "I've been in this league a long time, and it's the one of the [strangest] things I've seen. But I do know it's not all Tony's fault. I'm not making any plays, Qadry's not making plays, [wide receiver] Jermaine [Lewis] isn't making plays. Tony's really the least of our problems.

"You see, when you win like we have and play such good defense, it's easy to overlook what you're doing wrong. You got the W and you move on quickly to the next game. But time clearly has caught up with us, and we all need to take a long look in the mirror. Everyone. Offensively, we are killing our team."

Banks said he appreciates his team's confidence in him compared with last season, when departed Stoney Case and Scott Mitchell also got significant playing time. But Banks, who finished the day 16 of 27 for 135 yards, also said his frustration level is quickly growing.

"I'm fine confidence-wise, but there were lot of plays out there I could have and should have made early," Banks said.

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