Nothing to lose, Cards gamble, win In 4th, Plummer rewards coach going against book

Cardinals 16, Ravens 13

November 24, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Coming into yesterday's contest in Baltimore with a 2-9 record and having lost their last eight road games, the last-place Arizona Cardinals adopted a "go-for-broke" attitude that produced a 16-13 victory on Joe Nedney's last-second 43-yard field goal.

Coach Vince Tobin showed surprising faith in rookie quarterback Jake Plummer to pull it out in the fourth quarter, and was rewarded.

Tobin first rolled the dice with his team trailing 10-6 and 8: 34 remaining. Facing fourth-and-goal on the Ravens' 4, Tobin spurned a short field goal to try for a go-ahead touchdown.

Said Tobin: "If it had been fourth-and-nine, we probably would have gone for a field goal. But we had made 5 yards on the previous play.

"I felt even if we didn't make it, our defense was playing well enough, and we still might get a shot at it. But, basically, this team needed a shot in the arm and fortunately that's what happened."

What happened was that Plummer fired a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Frank Sanders, who made a diving catch in the end zone with DeRon Jenkins hanging on his back.

"I was surprised Coach Tobin was that confident in our defense," Sanders said. "But it showed us character, and that he is trying to win games."

Plummer, who showed his inexperience in the first half while being limited to 64 yards passing, was positive Tobin made the right call.

"They would have had to drag me off the field if they had done anything else," said the former Arizona State star. "At that point, we needed something positive to happen. We had to go for it."

The Cardinals' gambling philosophy carried over into the final 30 seconds after a field goal by Matt Stover appeared to set up the Ravens' second straight overtime.

With a young quarterback, it might have made sense for Tobin to settle for a tie and look to win in overtime. But again, the coach gave Plummer the opportunity to make the big plays, starting from his own 20.

"You decide to do it or not do it," Tobin said. "Certainly, the safe way would have been for Jake to kneel down on three straight plays. But again, this was a team that needed a win.

"If our first-down play had failed, we probably would have run out the clock. But once we got good yardage on the first play [an 11-yard pass to Rob Moore], we decided to keep going."

And Plummer made it happen in rapid-fire order against the Ravens' prevent defense.

"I think it's been proven that the prevent defense sometimes only prevents you from winning," Plummer said. "It opens up big holes underneath in the coverage, and you can drop balls off and guys can get out of bounds after picking up 15 or 20 yards. They did it, and we were able to make the plays to win it."

Plummer and his receivers made excellent use of the clock. After a 6-yard pass to fullback Larry Centers produced a first down on the Arizona 42, he found Moore open on a fade route that pushed the ball to the Ravens' 31.

With only seven seconds left, Tobin gambled on getting the ball closer for Nedney, who had made only two of five field goals from beyond the 40. And Plummer delivered with a 6-yard pass to Anthony Edwards.

The Ravens then tried to ice the Arizona kicker, but Nedney, who replaced veteran Kevin Butler in October, was unfazed.

Said Nedney: "When a defense calls timeout like that, you can either sit there and think too much, or you can put everything aside and make it just you and the uprights.

"And the longer I look at the uprights, the wider they seem to get. I just focused on the target and let my leg go. It happened real fast, and it felt great."

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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