Packers duo does number on hometown Freeman catches nine, Landeta hems in Lewis for friends back in Baltimore

Packers 28, Ravens 10

October 26, 1998|By Andy Fenelon | Andy Fenelon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Antonio Freeman found himself in the lobby of a Green Bay hotel less than 16 hours before yesterday's kickoff with the Ravens discussing the return game with teammate Roell Preston.

Preston, who already had returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, had yet to break a big one off a punt, and Freeman let him know it.

"I told him, 'You've done everything but break a punt,' " Freeman said. "And I told him about how everyone is hyping up Jermaine Lewis coming in here.

"And he was like, 'You know what, Free, I'm going to get one.' "

It took all of 1 minute and 47 seconds for Preston to make good on his promise. His 71-yard touchdown return at the 13: 13 mark in the first quarter vaulted the Packers to an early lead en route to a 28-10 victory over the Ravens.

While Preston set the tone for the game, it was a pair of Baltimore natives who kept it going.

Freeman finished with his third 100-yard game of the season (nine catches, 103 yards), which included a 4-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, giving the Packers a 14-0 lead.

And punter Sean Landeta was as much responsible for keeping the Ravens at bay as Baltimore's ineptness on offense. Landeta, who averaged 42.7 yards on seven punts, landed three of his kicks inside the 20-yard line and a pair inside the 5.

He also kept the ball out of the hands of one of the NFL's most dangerous return men -- Lewis, who made two fair catches and returned three others just 14 yards.

"Some people were really worried about him around here," said Landeta, 36, who was told by his coaches to kick away from Lewis. "He almost by himself can keep his team in the game. He's earned that respect, and that's why there was so much worry."

Landeta said he didn't like the strategy of kicking away from Lewis, even if it seemed to work.

"Personally, I don't like to do that to anybody," said Landeta, a veteran of 14 NFL seasons. "Maybe it's because I'm an old-timer. I like to play football."

But Landeta could hardly argue with the results. His punting was a big reason for the Ravens' struggles on offense. Baltimore's average starting position after each of Landeta's seven punts was its own 15-yard line. Landeta, a Towson State alum, said his performance and his team's victory against the Ravens was especially gratifying because of all the friends and family he had back home in Baltimore who were watching.

Freeman, a Poly grad who grew up about 10 miles from where Landeta was born and raised, agreed.

"It was a little more satisfying beating up on my home team, knowing everybody's back home watching," Freeman said.

Freeman provided the folks back home with a highlight-reel, one-handed catch in the third quarter. The 44-yard reception down the right sideline set up the Packers' third score of the game, a touchdown that for all intents and purposes sacked any chance the Ravens had for a comeback.

"You have to give the Baltimore Ravens a lot of credit," Freeman said. "Defensively, they're one of the best in the league. But their offense just struggles. I wouldn't say they're not in our class. I mean, different teams have different strengths and it's our job to take advantage of their weaknesses."

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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