Ravens' offense awakens

After sleepy first half, Johnson's 89-yard TD stops Atlanta, 19-6

August 22, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Ravens receiver Patrick Johnson invited about 30 relatives to the Georgia Dome last night and gave them quite a show in the Ravens' 19-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC champions.

Johnson, running with the No. 2 offense, caught an 89-yard touchdown pass from Tony Banks down the right sideline with 6: 33 left in the game to lead the Ravens to victory. Johnson (six catches, 170 yards) also had a 57-yard reception from Banks earlier in the fourth quarter to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Jay Graham.

Atlanta had one more opportunity to climb back into the game after Johnson's touchdown and a sack for a safety by Ravens defensive tackle Larry Fitzpatrick 30 seconds later, but usually reliable kicker Morten Andersen missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt with 2: 20 left.

"I had to make the play," Johnson said of his touchdown reception. "I dropped a pass last week so I wanted to make up for it. I couldn't believe they called the play in the huddle. I've been usually used on slants, but they called my number. I started slowing down on the play and then I lost it up in the dome. But it was a great throw.

"I'm originally from Georgia but a lot of people have never seen me play. I had a lot of folks here."

The Ravens also had a stellar defensive effort, particularly from reserve defensive tackles Lional Dalton and Martin Chase. Ravens starters Tony Siragusa and Larry Webster played well, but the Ravens have a solid group of eight players including defensive ends who will be shuttled in and out of the game.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said there were a number of other players who stepped up last night.

"Anytime you can come in on the road preseason or otherwise against the defending conference champions, it's a good win," said Billick. "It was great to see some people show up. We eliminated some of the mistakes we made offensively in Philadelphia. I thought we ran the ball well and Marvin [defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis] called an excellent game. I'm very confident in our front eight on defense. It allows us to use that rotation which will keep people fresh."

Atlanta scored the first time it had the ball, going 29 yards in six plays with help from two Ravens' offside penalties. Andersen ended the short drive with a 51-yard field goal with 10: 59 left in the first quarter for a 3-0 lead.

The Ravens answered with a 16-play, 83-yard drive on the next possession as Scott Bentley kicked a 24-yard field goal to tie the game at 3 with 3: 21 left in the first period. Jermaine Lewis proved to be the Ravens' go-to receiver in the drive with receptions of 11, 18, 19 and 17 yards. It was by far the team's most impressive drive of the season as it converted three third-down situations.

"Jermaine has high goals. He wants to go to the Pro Bowl as a receiver," said Billick of Lewis, who went as a punt returner last year. "But when he doesn't come up with the right move or route now, I tell him he can't go to the Pro Bowl that way."

Atlanta scored again with 7: 21 left in the second quarter as Andersen hit a 24-yard field goal that made the score 6-3. The Falcons didn't have far to go in the drive, and twice made the Ravens pay for zone coverage with two long receptions.

The Falcons had one more opportunity to score, but Andersen was short on a 62-yard try as time expired to end the half.

It was not a good first half for the Ravens' offense, which managed only one drive in five possessions. Quarterback Scott Mitchell, who played the first two quarters, completed 10 of 18 passes for 115 yards and looked awkward running the offense. He fumbled twice, had two passes batted down and was sacked twice.

"I'm not sure what the circumstances are," said Billick of Mitchell's fumbling. As for reserve Banks' first interception of the third quarter, Billick said, "There are times when he is going to have to throw it away and [learn] how to throw it away."

The Ravens did manage a running game as starting running back Priest Holmes rushed for 34 yards on eight carries and Errict Rhett rushed rushing six times for 33. But, the team still has a lot of offensive work to do, especially the timing and alignment of receivers.

Defensively, the Ravens held their own in the first half. Atlanta star running back Jamal Anderson, a training camp holdout, had limited work with only three carries for 16 yards in the first quarter. But the Ravens clearly missed pass-rushing specialists Michael McCrary, a defensive end out with a knee injury, and outside linebacker Peter Boulware, still nursing a shoulder injury.

The Ravens also had problems with special teams, allowing Atlanta a 22-yard kickoff return after Bentley's field goal, and getting a holding penalty that nullified a 29-yard punt return by Lewis to end the first quarter. The Ravens had seven penalties for 65 yards in the half, and nine for 85 in the game.

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