- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Can Anthony Wright duplicate Trent Dilfer?

In other words: Can a mediocre quarterback lead the Baltimore Ravens back to the Super Bowl. For now, the folks in Baltimore will settle for a first-round playoff win Saturday against the Tennessee Titans.

Everyone knows how good running back Jamal Lewis and the Ravens’ defense are, but the key to Baltimore’s playoff success is Wright.

The quarterback has a decent 72.3 passer rating and, like Dilfer, avoids mistakes that can hurt a team. But can he make the plays that help carry a team past the first round and maybe further. Wright’s been inconsistent and erratic since he replaced injured rookie starter Kyle Boller in Week 10.

The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Wright said the flow of Saturday’s game at M&T; Bank Stadium will dictate how much the Ravens (10-6) will throw. Tennessee’s No.1-ranked run defense may help force the issue.

“It’s all depending on the score and the way the game’s going to be played — if their offense is moving the ball and how well our defense is playing,” Wright said. “I think that’s pretty much been the determining factor as far as how much we’re going to throw the ball. With the time of year that it is, we’re more into just trying to control the game, just keep pounding and pounding and hopefully they’ll get tired. … The passing really comes when we really need it.”

In Wright’s seven starts, he has thrown nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. However, the fifth-year pro out of South Carolina has fumbled nine times and lost three. Dilfer wasn’t a fumbler.

“Every quarterback playing in the playoffs needs to raise his game right now,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “Anthony is no different and he is going to have to make those plays for us.”

Wright has proved he can make big plays. In the Ravens’ 44-41 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks, he rallied the Ravens from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and finished 20 of 37 for a career-high 319 yards and four touchdowns.

However, Wright underthrew plenty of Ravens in last Sunday’s season-ending 13-10 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. His longest completion was 29 yards.

Titans’ coach Jeff Fisher was asked if his team’s gameplan is focused on stopping Lewis and forcing Wright to throw.

“No, because he can throw the ball,” Fisher said. “We had the opportunity to coach [Ravens tight end Todd Heap] at the Pro Bowl last year, and he has the ability to get open against most safeties in the league, so Anthony has a good supporting cast to throw the ball down field. … The stats are misleading, he has made a number of plays, and he can make plays downfield when given the opportunity.”

Wright hasn’t given much thought about his meteoric rise up the Ravens depth chart. These days his focus is on the playoffs and duplicating Dilfer.

“Right now, I haven’t really sat down and thought about it,” Wright said. “I don’t read the newspapers. I don’t watch the talk shows, I don’t do that stuff. I just go home and I don’t even watch ESPN, really, because I don’t really want to hear what people say because everybody has their opinions. For myself, I just keep a level head about the situation. I just try to stay focused on what we have to do in order to get to Houston [site of the Super Bowl]. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team and if everybody does their part, I think we can go a long way.”


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