Game 2: Ravens toss complete game

Ravens 23, Bengals 10

Defense rises up, 20-point second half secures 1st victory

September 08, 1997|By Mike Preston | Sun reporter

In the Ravens' short history in Baltimore, this was by far the team's biggest win. The Ravens had their longest offensive drive ever. They blocked their first field goal. They interrupted a streak of having lost nine of their past 11 games after having a lead in the second half. And they won a game with defense.

Finally.

Relentless pressure from the defensive front seven forced two interceptions and five sacks yesterday, and the Ravens held the Cincinnati Bengals scoreless in the second half to rally for a 23-10 victory before 52,968 at Memorial Stadium.

It was the Ravens' first win of the season, and it could not have come at a better time, because the team now hits the road for the next three weeks against the New York Giants, Tennessee Oilers and San Diego Chargers.

"In my eye, this was the most critical game," Ravens safety Steven Moore said. "If we lose this one, we're 0-2 in the division, 0-2 in the conference and on the road for three, where we didn't win at all last year.

"And, yeah, while I was out there on the field the thought of losing all of those previous games in the fourth period did cross my mind. But today, I think we finally got the monkey off our backs."

The Ravens (1-1) also hitched a ride on the no-huddle offense for the first time this year in the second half, sparking the team to 20 points and wilting a Bengals team (1-1) that is expected to challenge for the AFC Central title.

The game-winning touchdown came on an 18-yard pass from quarterback Vinny Testaverde to tight end Eric Green with 9: 36 left in the game. That was followed by a 41-yard field goal from Matt Stover with 3: 45 remaining to put the Ravens ahead 23-10.

The Bengals had one more shot at a touchdown with 1: 09 left in the game, but Moore intercepted Jeff Blake's pass in the end zone and returned it to the 15-yard line before the Ravens ran out the remaining 59 seconds.

"The defense played a fine game all the way through and shut them down in the fourth quarter," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "The offense moved the ball and controlled the game in the fourth quarter. That's the way we've been losing some of these. This time we were able to win and it was a good one.

"The rewards are greater than the sacrifice. Hopefully, this is a first step for us."

Having their entire starting defense on the field was a first for the Ravens this year, preseason included. The Ravens controlled the game with their front line of ends Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary and tackles Larry Webster (one tackle), Tony Siragusa (two) and James Jones (four).

And with the tackles dominating the middle along with linebacker Ray Lewis (team-leading 10 tackles), the Ravens were able to turn McCrary, Burnett, Jones and Boulware loose on the rush against the Bengals' struggling offensive line.

McCrary was playing his first game this season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee the last week in July.

"This was definitely our best defensive game here in Baltimore," Lewis said. "I mean, we had guys flying all over the place, making plays. We had a rush on them, and that's the key to any defense, the rush and controlling with your people up front."

The Ravens also played a lot of two-deep coverage, rolling their safeties over to support cornerback Donny Brady on Bengals receivers Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott. Because of the strategy and the pass rush, Blake was forced to throw fast, short and across the middle, which did result in a couple of big plays, but only one touchdown.

"They had their safeties back deep the whole game," Blake said. "They changed up on us a little from a week ago. Sometimes with their rush, my only option was to hit the back out of the backfield in the flat."

The Ravens had their own offensive problems in the first half.

While the defense held the Bengals to 12 total plays on their first three series, the Ravens advanced into Cincinnati territory five times but came away with only three points. The Ravens trailed 10-3 at the half on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Blake to Pickens and a 46-yard field goal by Doug Pelfrey.

A fumble by receiver Michael Jackson at the Cincinnati 11 that was recovered by linebacker Andre Collins with 14: 51 in the first half killed one drive, and running back Earnest Byner lost another fumble after a 1-yard run to the Bengals' 42 to halt another drive with 12: 04 remaining.

"We were killing ourselves, those fumbles," said Ravens guard Leo Goeas, who played most of the second half at center in place of starter Quentin Neujahr, who left the game with an ankle injury. "We just had way too many breakdowns. Then we went to the no-huddle."

The Bengals were in no shape to keep pace with the no-huddle. Some of the Ravens even joked about it.

"They had a lot of guys laying down out there, getting hurt," said right tackle Orlando Brown. "I was going back to the huddle telling the guys, 'Let's step it up a little, they can't hang.' "

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