- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One day after his best passing day as a pro, Kyle Boller still couldn’t shake the sting of defeat — or the throbbing sensation of a sprained left shoulder.

The rookie quarterback went 15-for-27 for 302 yards and two touchdowns Sunday in the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-26 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The shoulder injury occurred in the fourth quarter, but Boller didn’t miss a down and expects to start this Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

“It’s OK. Call it day-to-day,” he said yesterday.

Ravens coach Brian Billick will draw up his game plan for Denver with Boller as his quarterback.

“It’s painful as opposed to a problem,” Billick said. “It’s his non-throwing shoulder. He should be fine, but we will monitor it through the week.”

Boller was in obvious pain after being driven to the ground by Justin Smith with 1:20 left, but he never considered heading to the sideline.

“There was no way that he was coming out of the game, and that’s a good sign,” Billick said. “For him to come back and make the throws he did while being hurt, you’ve got to be impressed with that.”

Boller’s 104.2 quarterback rating against the Bengals more than doubled the 46.2 mark he brought into the game. But he lost two fumbles and threw an interception to put the Ravens in a 24-7 hole at halftime.

“When you have those kind of turnovers, you can’t expect to win,” Boller said.

“The mechanics on the fumbles were unfortunate, and we’ll try to clean that up,” Billick said. “But his judgment on the day was very good, and he made some throws that probably only a handful of players in this league can make.”

If nothing else, Boller has made positive strides during his first two months as an NFL quarterback.

“Game by game, he’s getting better,” Ravens receiver Frank Sanders said. “I definitely see him improving.”

Boller wasn’t the only culprit in Sunday’s loss. Baltimore (3-3) was called for 13 penalties, and safety Ed Reed gave up a touchdown when a long pass went through his arms into the appreciative hands of Chad Johnson.

“When it goes bad,” Reed said, “it goes bad.”

Billick also found fault in the usually reliable defense. Although half the Bengals’ points came off turnovers, a key drive came at the start of the second half, when Cincinnati kicked a field goal after covering 72 yards in 12 plays.

“The margin for error is short in the NFL, and we made far too many errors,” Billick said. “We come to expect a lot from our defense, but there were a number of instances where our defense would normally shut down a team, particularly that opening drive in the third quarter.”

The defeat ruined the Ravens’ bid to pad their lead in a forgiving division in which no one has a winning record.

“Losing to Cincinnati is obviously something we had no intention of doing,” Sanders said. “Neither was playing the way we did.”

Said Billick: “It’s very disappointing, if for no other reason that it was a missed opportunity.”

Billick was just as irritated over what he perceived to be a botched instant replay call. After Tory James returned a Boller interception 31 yards, Billick contended Sanders tagged the defensive back at the point of the pickoff.

The replay seemed to back up the claim, and Sanders insists he did tag James. But after reviewing the play, referee Johnny Grier upheld the call.

“I don’t know that Johnny wasn’t looking at pictures of his kids in that little booth,” Billick said.

“I’m still an advocate of instant replay, but I’ve long been an advocate of taking it off the field. Let’s take it upstairs,” Billick said. “With the current system, I’ve got to expend a timeout, embarrass the officials and throw a red flag out on the field, let him go in and look at God knows what on the Internet and come out and tell me I didn’t get a definitive view to overrule it.”

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