R. Lewis makes statement at home

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

After letdown in Atlanta, linebacker gets involved

August 29, 1999|By Brent Jones and Gary Lambrecht | Brent Jones and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ray Lewis didn't have a typical performance early in last week's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.

So the Ravens' Pro Bowl linebacker decided to make up for it last night against the Carolina Panthers, causing havoc on three major plays in the first quarter.

With Carolina up 7-0 midway through the first quarter and driving, Lewis teamed with Keith Washington to stop Tim Biakabutuka for no gain on a third-and-one on the Ravens 27. One play later, Lewis and Rob Burnett stopped fullback William Floyd for no gain.

Lewis also recovered a Mushin Muhammad fumble forced by Rod Woodson, stopping another Carolina drive with 2: 28 left in the quarter. Lewis finished with four tackles.

Receivers catching on

The Ravens ran up 489 yards of total offense, and coach Brian Billick was satisfied with his receivers. They are finally catching on, so to speak, and gained 11.1 yards a reception against the Panthers.

Although Billy Davis didn't get into the game in the first half, he caught three passes (5, 13 and 41 yards) from quarterback Stoney Case on the Ravens' game-winning drive. Davis finished the game with four catches for 65 yards.

Justin Armour led all receivers with five catches for 70 yards. Qadry Ismail had four for 72 yards and Floyd Turner had four for 41 yards. Billick likes to talk about explosive plays and he had three of them last night with receptions of 49, 49 and 41 yards.

"Our problems have been well-documented early in training camp," Billick said, "but we're starting to become accountable."

Special teams flop

The Ravens' special teams continued to struggle, especially in the coverage and return games.

Setting the tone on the game's first play, the ball bounced off the shoulder pads of kickoff return man Corey Harris. By the time Harris found the ball, the Panthers were on top of him. Harris had to settle for a 3-yard return to the 5. Three plays and one fumble later, the Ravens were down 7-0.

Midway through the second quarter, the Panthers put themselves in position for a go-ahead, 26-yard field goal after Iheanyi Uwaezuoke returned a Kyle Richardson punt 32 yards to the Ravens' 41. Richardson saved the touchdown by making a sideline tackle.

With 4: 20 left in the third quarter, the punt-return team botched the job. While Eric Metcalf was signaling for a fair catch at the Ravens' 25, rookie cornerback Chris McAlister ran into him. Then, McAlister was hit by the ball. Carolina recovered at the 24, but the Ravens' defense held.

"We've got to get better. We've got too many athletes," Billick said. "The coaching has to get better and the playing has to get better. If I have to put the starters out there against New York [Giants on Friday], I'll do it."

Safety Bennie Thompson agreed with Billick's statement on the special teams situation.

"We'll go with the first team all next week," Thompson said. "I'll be glad to see that because I've got to get tuned up myself."

`A judgment call'

The Ravens' running game has performed well the past two weeks and one of the reasons could be left guard Everett Lindsay, who has been filling filled in for injured Jeff Atkins (hamstring) the past two games.

The Ravens rushed for 132 yards on 26 attempts last night, paced by Errict Rhett, Priest Holmes and Jay Graham. When Atkins returns, he could find himself behind Lindsay on the depth chart.

"That's conventional wisdom, the conventional way of thinking," Billick said when told that starters aren't supposed to lose their job because of injuries. "We went through this last year [in Minnesota] with MVP Randall Cunningham filling in for Brad Johnson. Do you remove the MVP and risk possibly losing production? That's a judgment call."

Injury report

The Ravens decided not to play Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware last night after Boulware, who is recovering from a hurt shoulder, practiced this week. Offensive lineman James Atkins (hamstring), safety Anthony Poindexter (knee) and defensive end Michael McCrary (knee) also did not dress. Jermaine Lewis (hamstring) dressed but did not play.

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