Goeas' kick helps Ravens bounce back

September 15, 1997|By John Eisenberg

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let's call it the Ravens' version of the Immaculate Reception.

OK, so it was just a fumbled snap from center, hardly the dramatic equivalent of Franco Harris' famous game-winning catch from the 1972 playoffs.

When you're the Ravens, winners of just six of 19 games, a fumbled snap will have to do.

It's not as if they have experienced many other major strokes of good fortune since moving from Cleveland.

Mostly, they have spent their time inventing new ways to lose games they should have won.

But yesterday, at last, they invented a way to win that smacked of an otherworldly hand.

"I thought I might have detected a little divine intervention," halfback Earnest Byner said of the fumbled snap that the Ravens survived in the final minutes of a 24-23 victory over the Giants.

Maybe the football gods are going to cut Team Modell some slack, after all.

The snap occurred with 2: 59 left in the fourth quarter and the Giants ahead, 23-21. The Ravens had scored a touchdown four minutes earlier to cut a nine-point deficit to two, then regained possession at their 32 after the Giants' Brad Dalusio missed a 41-yard field-goal try.

The Ravens had all the momentum. A scoring drive and a comeback victory seemed imminent. Giants Stadium fell quiet as the Ravens' offense huddled up and trotted to the line on first down.

And then quarterback Vinny Testaverde pulled away from center Leo Goeas without the ball.

"I just didn't get it," Testaverde said later.

The ball dropped to the ground behind Goeas, presenting the Giants with an easy way to derail the Ravens' momentum and win a sloppy game.

Given the Ravens' penchant for blowing leads -- they blew nine second-half leads in 1996 -- it seemed almost inevitable that the Giants would recover.

L "Last year, they probably would have recovered," Byner said.

But the Immaculate Reception denied them.

Unaware that the ball was loose behind him, Goeas set up to pass block and proceeded to boot the ball backward with his heel. It hopped and spun into the air like an onside kick, and it could have gone anywhere, but it flew straight to Testaverde.

"I had pulled back and saw the ball lying on the ground," Testaverde said, "and before I could react, it came right to me."

L Mike Mussina couldn't have found the strike zone any better.

Maybe Goeas can spot-start for the Orioles in the playoffs.

Not only did he kick a perfect strike to Testaverde, but he also did it just as a huge hole opened in the middle of the line, allowing Testaverde to make like Franco Harris and scramble for an 11-yard gain.

So, instead of fumbling away another game, the Ravens were on their way to the decisive score. Seven plays later, Matt Stover kicked a 37-yard field goal and the Ravens were winners by a point.

But it all started with Goeas' dead-solid perfect boot to Testaverde.

How supernatural was it? Goeas didn't even know what he had done until a reporter told him after the game.

"You're kidding me," he said. "I didn't know that."

Pause.

"What happened?"

Another pause.

"I just thought Vinny made something up [on the scramble]."

Wrong, Leo. And by the way, you're a hero!

In Goeas' defense, Byner also thought Testaverde might have improvised a scramble on the play. That's how quickly it happened.

"I guess the spirit was with us," Byner said.

Something was, that's for sure.

"Sometimes you have to get lucky," Ravens safety Stevon Moore said. "We haven't had any luck [in Baltimore], but we finally got some today."

It was a day when the Ravens debunked a number of unflattering myths, such as that they couldn't win on the road, and that they couldn't win back-to-back games, and that they couldn't come from behind in the fourth quarter, and that they couldn't expect a clutch kick from Stover, who missed two key ones last year.

BTC Wrong, all wrong.

They also proved they could win when playing poorly, a sign of a maturing team.

"There are about a million reasons why this win is so important for us," receiver Michael Jackson said.

But of all those many reasons why it was important, the biggest was that it debunked the myth that the Ravens were star-crossed, ill-fated, luckless, incapable of generating the blessings of good fortune that all teams need.

A year ago, they blew leads, fumbled snaps, missed field-goal tries, threw key interceptions and generally behaved like a team that walked around beneath a dark cloud.

"We lost a lot of tough games, which wasn't easy," Testaverde said.

They had tried to tell themselves that this year would be different, but then they lost their opener to the Jaguars in the same old fashion and, well, it was impossible not to wonder if they were the same old luckless Ravens. (Sorry, Ted.)

L Last week's win over the Bengals? It was solid, but routine.

The Immaculate Reception is the first real indication of a possible change in the Ravens' fortunes.

It didn't have anything to do with blocking, tackling, schemes, packages or shifts. It had to with fate, a commodity that has cursed the Ravens in their short time in Baltimore.

Cursed them until now, that is.

Pub Date: 9/15/97

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