Martin's knowledge takes him long way Slumping wide receiver spots hole in defense, fills it with 3 TD catches

September 29, 1997|By Dave Distel | Dave Distel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SAN DIEGO -- Tony Martin went to the movies last week and came away liking what he didn't see. He did not see the Ravens' safeties covering the deep middle of the field. For a guy who had become a forgotten man in the San Diego Chargers' struggling offense, this was something to remember.

All Martin did yesterday was take advantage of that little bit of knowledge to catch four passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-17 victory over the Ravens.

There was nothing coming into this game to suggest that Martin was headed for a big afternoon, other than reputation. He was, after all, a Pro Bowl pick after the 1996 season. However, this season, he had 11 receptions for 163 yards and no touchdowns through the first four games, three of them losses.

"We were watching films and we saw that the Ravens' safeties left the middle open a lot," Martin said. "They liked to squeeze up on the run, so we wanted to run a lot of play fakes and see if we could get them to bite. You see stuff like that, but you still don't think it can lead to a day like today."

The offense entered the game with just three touchdowns.

Stan Humphries, the beleaguered quarterback, saw the same things Martin was seeing. Mind you, the Ravens don't always leave the middle open, only on certain coverages.

"What we saw told us that we might have a chance to hit a couple of long passes," Humphries said. "If they gave us that coverage we wanted, we'd run the routes we worked on after watching the film."

Humphries and Martin saw what they wanted when they approached the line of scrimmage facing second-and-nine midway through the second quarter.

"We gave it a play-action look, and the safety was out of position," Martin said. "It was wide-open, like it was on film."

Martin blew past cornerback Donny Brady at the line of scrimmage and caught Humphries' pass in full stride en route to a 72-yard touchdown. Strong safety Stevon Moore came across too late to intervene.

That was the kind of connection Humphries and Martin had made rather routinely in the past. Such bombs have been nonexistent this year. More typical was the Humphries-to-Martin pass for the Chargers' first touchdown, a play on which Martin split wide and slid short across the middle. It was a short pass converted into a 36-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-two.

"That was a spot route," Martin said. "If I think I can beat the linebacker across the middle, that's what I do. I beat the linebacker and just headed for the end zone."

The Ravens -- kicker Matt Stover, in particular -- kept plugging away, however, and the Chargers found themselves behind 17-14 near the end of the third quarter. On first-and-10 at the Ravens' 38, they again encountered the coverage with the vulnerable midsection.

"We call that a select route," Martin said. "I get my choice on what to do with it. The safety overcommitted, and I took it up. Stan just put it in there for me."

Martin caught it for a third consecutive touchdown reception. His other reception, for 9 yards, had come on the game's first play from scrimmage.

"I feel real good, like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders, but it's not because of the three touchdowns," Martin said. "It just feels so good to get the win. I get to enjoy it for an evening at least."

Martin did not say how he would spend his Sunday evening. Perhaps at the movies.

Thinking deep

The San Diego Chargers had seven plays from scrimmage of 27 yards or more, compared with two for the Ravens (in bold):

First quarter

Yds. Play

27 Humphries pass to Brown

36 Humphries to Martin (TD)

62 Humphries to Metcalf

Second quarter

72 Humphries to Martin (TD)

29 Humphries to F. Jones

Third quarter

33 Testaverde to Lewis

37 Testaverde to Lewis (TD)

35 Humphries to Hartley

38 Humphries to Martin (TD)

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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