A month ago (Nov. 19), I had the audacity to imply that with Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller injured and unable to play for possibly the remainder of the season, the Ravens' ship was sunk. They were 5-4 at the time, coming off an embarrassingly ugly loss to the St. Louis Rams in which Boller's backup, Chris Redman, played more like Chris Kattan, and they were about to face a string of tough opponents. With third-string signal caller Anthony Wright slated to take over the helm, they obviously didn't stand a chance at making the playoffs. Little did I know that Mr. Wright was Mr. Right. Little did anyone know.
Since becoming Brian Billick's starting quarterback the week after the Rams debacle, Wright has led his team to a surprising 3-2 record--each of the victories more impressive than the last--while resuscitating an offense that was being read its last rites. He's taken a sputtering football team that was trying to hang onto the tiniest shred of respectability and transformed it into a scoring machine that happens to be tied for the AFC North lead. Did anybody see this coming?
Here's a guy that hadn't taken a regular-season snap since 2001. A guy who prior to this season had appeared in all of eight games during his four-year NFL career. In those eight games, he was sacked 17 times, threw eight interceptions and just five touchdowns, while completing a woeful 46.3 percent of his passes (70 for 151). Sure, he was playing for the then-pathetic Dallas Cowboys, but still. The former South Carolina Gamecock looked anything like a starting NFL quarterback, or any kind of NFL quarterback for that matter.
Not that Wright's 2003 numbers are that much better, because they aren't. His completion percentage has improved modestly to 51.1 (68 for 133). He's actually being sacked more often than before, getting taken down behind the line 14 times in five games, and still getting picked off fairly regularly, with six interceptions in those same five games. All of which doesn't seem to matter that much when you consider the fact that Wright has thrown a robust eight touchdowns. By comparison, before his injury, it had taken Boller almost 100 more attempts (223) to throw one less TD. Used to be, if the Ravens were going to take it to the house, odds were they'd do it on the ground. Not anymore.
Wright's eight scoring tosses are a big reason the Ravens were able to rip off a three-game winning streak (before stumbling in Oakland last Sunday), and a big reason that his quarterback rating is a respectable 75.6. Not that that puts him in the Pro Bowl or anything, but it does put him comfortably in the middle of the NFL pack, within a point or two of a few guys you may have heard of. Guys named McNabb, Bledsoe, Garcia, and Gannon.
What's even more impressive about the eight TD strikes is who's been on the receiving end. Naturally, you'd think Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap would be the main guy. You'd be wrong--he's caught just one of them. Instead, it's been Marcus Robinson with six scoring grabs. That's not a misprint. Marcus Robinson has caught six of Wright's eight touchdowns, including four in a ridiculous 44-41 come-from-behind win against the Seahawks.
Before Mr. Wright came along, Robinson was just another disappointing Ravens receiver. In Baltimore's first nine games, the former Chicago Bear had caught just seven passes for 63 yards and no touchdowns. In five games with his new best friend playing quarterback, Robinson has caught 15 passes for 259 yards and, yes, six huge touchdowns. Finally, there's another big-time receiver in town besides Todd Heap. That's right, I said big time. Marcus Robinson is big time, and Anthony Wright is the reason.
Wright is also the reason the Ravens have scored a gaudy 127 points in their last four games. Jamal Lewis may have something to do with it, too, but he's been there all year. Only now that the Ravens are a threat to score both on the ground and in the air is the scoreboard operator working overtime. In fact, don't look now, but Billick's boys--forever known for their D and nothing else--are averaging 24.5 points per game, which makes them the ninth-highest-scoring team in the league. The Ravens? Ninth-highest-scoring team in the league? You bet. Combine that kind of offensive potency with Ray Lewis and Co. on the other side of the ball, and one of the most dangerous teams in football right now is the Baltimore Ravens. You know, Anthony Wright's team.
Not Any Given Sunday (12/31/2003)
My Dad's already rolling calls. It's 4:27 p.m. on the final Sunday of the NFL's regular season,...
Phony Baloney (12/24/2003)
Turns out Orioles executives weren't the only ones in New Orleans glued to their cell phones last...
Winter Snow Warning (12/10/2003)
Batting fourth, playing right field for the Baltimore Orioles, No. 27, Vladimir Guerrero.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201