J. Jones measures up beyond statistics Nose tackle successful at freeing up linebackers, tying up All-Pro Dawson

Ravens Notebook

December 02, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Roch Eric Kubatko and Vito Stellino contributed to this article.

James Jones recorded only one tackle in yesterday's 31-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the contributions of the 6-foot-2, 290-pound nose tackle go deeper than the stat sheet.

Jones spent most of the day tying up Pittsburgh All-Pro center Dermontti Dawson, and freeing up linebackers like Ray Lewis (eight tackles) and Mike Caldwell (six) to contain Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. After rushing for 57 yards in the opening quarter, Bettis was held to 48 yards the rest of the way.

Jones also had to fight through a rough second half, after he suffered an ankle injury during the Steelers' opening possession early in the third quarter. He was replaced temporarily by Tim Goad, but re-entered the game with a little more than nine minutes left and played in pain the rest of the way.

"He was hurting, but that's what he's all about," defensive line coach Jacob Burney said about Jones. "His presence, as a player and the way he communicates, helps our defense. If he's not in there, it's a dire situation."

Footman does his part

The defense also received a lift from tackle Dan Footman, who played for the first time since breaking his forearm against Indianapolis on Oct. 13.

Footman, who played primarily at end in the Ravens' dime package, recorded one tackle and two assists. He also pressured quarterback Mike Tomczak into a critical incompletion with just over four minutes left and the Ravens leading 31-17.

"Whether it's his enthusiasm, his mannerisms, whatever, he kept them [the defense] loose, especially late in the game," Burney said. "His ability to rush the quarterback helped us late. He really held his own. There's no doubt he was hungry."

Speaking of injuries on defense, coach Ted Marchibroda said the Ravens are healthier than they have been in six weeks, and he used linebacker Mike Croel and defensive linemen Anthony Pleasant and Mike Frederick as more examples.

Croel, bothered by a sprained knee around midseason, had his fourth strong game in a row with three tackles, a pass deflection and an interception that set up a 40-yard field goal by Matt Stover, who gave the Ravens a 24-10 halftime lead.

Frederick (one tackle) was consistently around the ball. Pleasant, still bothered by an ankle injury he suffered in the season opener, had two tackles, a sack and a pass deflection.

"The pain is still there. I can't avoid it," Pleasant said. "I'm just being smarter during the week, not putting too much pressure on it [the ankle]."

J. Lewis on track

Kick returner Jermaine Lewis had the best day of his rookie season, with 71 yards on three punt returns. His first return, a 46-yarder after the Steelers' first possession, set up the Ravens' first touchdown. Lewis barely missed a touchdown after Donta Jones tackled him from behind, inside the 1.

After Bam Morris was stopped for no gain, quarterback Vinny Testaverde hit lineman Jonathan Ogden with a 1-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

"I knew it was a short kick, and I wanted to catch it on the run," Lewis said. "All I saw was the punter, and once I got past him, I was thinking end zone."

Of his trip to the end zone, Ogden said: "I've made some great catches in practice. I was just thinking, 'I'm wide-open, and I'd better not drop this ball.' I didn't even hear the crowd. I was just looking it in. I'm glad we won, but I'm also glad I got some stats."

Might have been two

Eric Green became the first Ravens tight end to catch a touchdown pass, when Testaverde hit him with a 3-yarder to conclude the scoring with 12: 22 left. Green sat out last week's loss to Jacksonville with recurring knee soreness.

Green would have had a second touchdown reception, had Testaverde hit him on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers' 1 early in the second quarter. Green drifted open across the end zone, but Testaverde underthrew him badly and was intercepted by safety Darren Perry.

Everitt gets his chance

Ravens center Steve Everitt looked like a caged animal pacing the sidelines in the first quarter. Finally, he entered the game and played the entire second quarter -- his first action since tearing a pectoral muscle in Denver on Oct. 20.

Everitt controlled Pittsburgh nose tackle Joel Steed throughout much of the Ravens' 17-point quarter. He also played over the last half of the fourth quarter.

Work of two

While wide receiver Derrick Alexander terrorized the Pittsburgh secondary, Michael Jackson did not catch a pass.

"I made up for the both of us today," Alexander said.

Healthy difference

Eight of Tomczak's 18 completions went to Charles Johnson, and the third-year receiver's 117 yards increased his team-leading total to 850 on 49 catches.

Johnson, the Steelers' No. 1 draft choice three years ago out of Colorado, started 10 games last season but missed the playoffs and Super Bowl because of an injury to his right knee. He had 38 receptions in each of his first two seasons.

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