QB threw 3 interceptions vs. Redskins

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have proven they can win in spite of Kyle Boller. Now they're going to find out if they can win without Jamal Lewis.

Boller threw three interceptions, passed for a meager 81 yards and compiled a miserable 22.9 quarterback rating Sunday night against the Washington Redskins. Such abysmal numbers don't usually translate to victory and often can lead to a quarterback controversy.

Fortunately for the Ravens, the rest of the team was exceptional in Baltimore's 17-10 win. The defense yielded only 107 yards, rookie B.J. Sams provided the go-ahead touchdown with a 78-yard punt return and Lewis cemented the verdict by running for 96 yards over the final 17 minutes.

Baltimore (3-2) reached the bye week within striking distance of first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North, but the Ravens must play their next two games without Lewis, who will begin serving a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Chester Taylor and Musa Smith are slated to share the workload at running back against Buffalo on Oct. 24 and Philadelphia on Oct. 31. Both players are competent, but neither can be compared to Lewis, who ran for 2,066 yards last season and finished with 116
yards on 28 carries against Washington.

Upon handing the starting job to Taylor, Lewis gave his backup a stern directive.

"He told me, 'Make sure we're 5-2 when I come back,'" Taylor said Monday. "I'm going to try to take care of business."

If the Ravens are to win without Lewis, they will need more production out of Boller, the 30th-ranked quarterback in the NFL. Boller has thrown only two touchdown passes, is averaging a mere 130 yards passing and has completed only one pass for more than 50
yards -- on a flea flicker.

Nine of Boller's 18 passes Sunday night were caught by his teammates and three were snared by the Redskins, who converted two of the picks into 10 points.

"Kyle needs to play better. Kyle will play better," coach Brian Billick said. "Kyle is our starting quarterback."

The alternative is Kordell Stewart, who has yet to throw a pass this season. Anthony Wright, who did a fine job running the offense last year after Boller went out with a thigh injury, hopes to return from shoulder surgery in November.

Boller plans to spend part of the off week at home in California. He's happy for the break but would prefer to get back on the field in the wake of his flop against the Redskins.

"Definitely you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth," he said. "But the bye week will be good, just to kind of let the body relax a little bit and take your mind off football for just a couple days."

Before Sunday, Boller threw only two interceptions in four games. But his performance has been erratic at best, and the 2003 first-round draft pick knows the Ravens won't always win on a night which he commits three turnovers.

"I think I've done some good things, and I've definitely done my fair share of things I need to work on," he said. "But I think overall, minus the last game, I've protected the ball. We just need to continue to find ways to get that passing game going."

Boller should get some help when the Ravens begin preparing for Buffalo. Tight end Todd Heap, wide receiver Travis Taylor and center Mike Flynn all expect to return from injuries that have kept them sidelined for weeks.

That might help ease the loss of Lewis, whom Billick embraced on the sideline Sunday night after victory was secure.

"It was a very emotional time, an appreciation for a player That really laid it out on the line and physically just kind of dominated that second half," Billick said. "I wanted him to know, as his teammates wanted him to know, that we're with him, we believe in him and we'll be here when he gets back."