Less obvious but even more telling was a play Banks made, or didn't make, earlier in the second quarter. On first down at the Ravens' 39, Skins tackle Dana Stubblefield jumped offside. Flags flew, leaving Banks a free play as two receivers ran downfield routes. But rather than take a shot at a big gainer, Banks threw an awkward pass in the left flat that fell incomplete at running back Jamal Lewis's toes.
Banks showed promise early in the season, throwing eight touchdown passes while getting picked off only three times as Baltimore started 3-1. However, in the last three games, two of them victories in which the Ravens got by on field goals, he has completed just 51 passes in 100 attempts with two interceptions. During that stretch Banks has averaged a paltry 4.59 yards per attempt. Moreover, the offense couldn't have been much worse when it mattered most, converting only 14 of 44 third-down attempts while failing to score a touchdown in seven red-zone opportunities.
"Maybe I've been pressing, but I'm fine, confidence-wise," Banks said after completing 16 of 27 passes for 135 yards against Washington. "I just can't lose my focus."
Trent Dilfer is waiting in the wings, but even before Ravens coach Brian Billick could be asked the question, he announced that Banks would start this Sunday's critical AFC Central game against the Titans. Should Banks continue to falter, though, Billick risks losing not only more games but also the respect of his players, particularly those on a defense that ranks among the league's best.