BALTIMORE -- Every time Troy Smith or Kyle Boller gets the opportunity to move ahead in the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback competition, he takes one step back.
Neither player has distinguished himself after two games, and things got particularly ugly Saturday night in a 23-15 preseason loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Given the chance to start after playing a relief role in the opener against New England, Smith went 3-for-5 for 25 yards and an interception for a 33.3 quarterback rating. At least he ran for 35 yards and guided the Ravens on their lone scoring drive of the night, although that 73-yard march was really the product of a 42-yard run by rookie Ray Rice.
Entering in the second half, Boller completed eight of 12 passes for just 40 yards and threw an interception. He has three turnovers in two games, helping negate the huge edge in experience he holds over Smith, now in his second season since winning the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State.
About the only thing Smith and Boller have done over the past two weeks is eliminate top draft pick Joe Flacco from the competition.
"As a trio we have so much to learn and so far to go," Smith said. "It's only the second exhibition game. But because of the work we're putting into it, it seems like eight games."
Maybe after eight games, the quarterbacks will have settled into a comfort zone with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's complex attack. Perhaps by then, the Ravens will have starting running back Willis McGahee back, and the ankle injuries to tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry will have healed.
"I think they had some good moments and some not so good moments," coach John Harbaugh said. "There were some opportunities to learn in a game like this."
"The pick at the end of the half was totally my fault," Smith said. "The inside read was there. I'm not going to say I was getting greedy, I was just trying to give a guy a chance to make a play. I should have gone elsewhere."
Flacco went 10-for-15 for 74 yards over the final two series. It was a vast improvement over his 0-for-3, one-fumble performance against New England.
But he was operating against a prevent defense filled with third-string players. The rookie also had an interception wiped out by a penalty.
"I thought I did a pretty good job and felt more comfortable," Flacco said. "I was a little bit more in the flow of the game tonight. Got out there and got to do a two-minute drill."
His numbers were better than those of Boller and Smith, yet he's out of the running to be the starter in the regular-season opener on Sept. 7 against Cincinnati. That pretty much sums up the competition.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press