Inspired Alexander returns in style Receiver comes off bench to make 6 catches, sets up winning TD with 92-yarder

December 08, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

After spending five consecutive quarters riding the bench, the longest such inactive stretch of his four-year career, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Alexander was itching to make someone pay for his frustration.

Seattle cornerback Fred Thomas, step right up.

All Alexander did after entering yesterday's game midway through the second quarter was grace Memorial Stadium with his most inspired performance in several weeks. Gone were the puzzling number of dropped balls in recent games. Alexander ran precise patterns and snared every pass from Eric Zeier that came his way.

And Thomas was the main victim of Alexander's inspiration -- six catches for 150 yards, both game highs.

Fast-forward to the play that propelled the Ravens to a 31-24 victory, their first win at home in three months. With 11: 42 left in the fourth quarter, the game tied at 24 and the Ravens mired at their 7, Alexander lined up wide right on first down, sprinted straight downfield, then stopped.

Thomas took the bait, then watched Alexander blow by him and gather Zeier's pass near midfield. To Thomas' credit, he chased Alexander down at the Seahawks' 1, but the damage was done.

On the next play, Bam Morris scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown, and Alexander had announced his return to the Ravens' good graces with a 92-yard bomb that counts as the longest in team history and the longest reception in the NFL this year.

"I'm not the type of guy who gets down on myself. I just felt like I had to do better," said Alexander, who watched James Roe take his place in last week's 29-27 loss in Jacksonville.

"When I came onto the field today, it felt like I hadn't played in a long time," Alexander said. "It was great to get back into a game situation. I practiced hard every day [since his benching]. I guess I regained their confidence. I hadn't missed a whole game since the final game of last year [with a shoulder injury]. I was pretty ready."

Alexander showed that soon after replacing Roe with seven minutes left in the first half. He ran an out pattern against Thomas and caught a 14-yard pass for a first down. He would catch two more passes for first downs in the second half, including a 22-yarder that preceded a missed 45-yard field-goal attempt by Matt Stover early in the fourth quarter.

Then came the bomb.

"He had been running outs all day. He'd been setting me up all day," Thomas said of Alexander.

"I'm always thinking about the big play," said Alexander, who acknowledged that he lost Zeier's slightly underthrown pass in the lights before making the catch. He saluted Thomas for

running him down from behind. "I'm a little upset about how much stuff I'm going to have to take all week after we watch it on film [today]. I saw the safety coming from the other side. I didn't know the cornerback had recovered that well."

Teammate and fellow receiver Michael Jackson chided Alexander immediately after the play.

Jackson summed up Alexander's day by saying, "He stepped in and did what he was doing before he was taken out. Some plays were called for him today, and he took full advantage of them."

Coach Ted Marchibroda announced after the game that Alexander had won back his job as a starter for next week's game against Tennessee.

"Derrick played the kind of ball we feel Derrick can play, and hope that he plays every week," Marchibroda said.

"That guy is a great player who can really run, as we saw today," Zeier said of Alexander. "He's one of the best receivers I've seen. He may have been going through a little slump, but that happens to good players in any sport. He caught everything today."

Said Alexander: "It just feels good to get back into the game, into the flow of things, and to help this team get a victory."

Pub Date: 12/08/97

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