Banks, receivers restore connection

Timing, protection improve

Armour makes 5 catches against team that cut him

November 08, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Qadry Ismail said he sensed throughout last week's practices that a breakout game for the Ravens' offense, specifically its wide receivers, was at hand.

"It was probably one of our best practice weeks, in terms of timing between quarterback and receivers," Ismail said.

The timing between quarterback Tony Banks and his receiving corps, led by Ismail and Justin Armour, could not have been more crisp throughout the first half of yesterday's 41-9 rout of the Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens took a 17-3 halftime lead and control of the game in large part due to the rugged running of Errict Rhett, but it was a half in which they also came to life at the receiver position.

Armour, in particular, enjoyed a memorable half, catching all five of his passes for 38 yards. Four of those receptions came on third down, and each gave the Ravens a first down.

Ismail, meanwhile, beat rookie cornerback Daylon McCutcheon on a 28-yard touchdown that gave the Ravens a 14-3 lead with 8: 09 left in the half.

Even second-year receiver Patrick Johnson, who had not played since Oct. 10 against Tennessee, chipped in with a 10-yard reception for a first down.

Banks was a huge key in the resurgence of his receivers. He took advantage of excellent pass protection and stood calmly in the pocket while picking apart the Browns' pass defense.

He also threw with near-perfect accuracy throughout the first half, completing 13 of 19 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. On at least three of his incompletions, Banks threw the ball away.

For one afternoon, the Ravens did not resemble the league's 28th-ranked passing offense, even though Jermaine Lewis' puzzling season continued. Lewis did not catch a pass and is still looking for his first score of 1999.

"You can't assign the lack of efficiency in the passing game to just the quarterback or just the receivers," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

"When things are going good, it takes everybody [to make it happen]. We rolled a lot of people through [at receiver] today, and they all did what they were supposed to do."

No one enjoyed his day more than Armour. After collecting a Super Bowl ring as a reserve with Denver last year, he was selected by the Browns in the February expansion draft. Cleveland cut him in late May.

"Yeah, it's pretty personal," Armour said. "They let me go, for reasons they kind of thought were good. I never questioned whether I could play."

Armour wasted little time hurting the Browns. On the Ravens' opening possession -- a 12-play, 73-yard touchdown march -- he broke open underneath for a 10-yard reception on third-and-seven. He followed that with another 10-yarder on a third-and-four, which moved the ball to the Cleveland 25.

Four plays later, Rhett's 11-yard touchdown run gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Armour's 9-yard catch on third-and-six moved the ball to the Browns' 33. Two plays later, Ismail torched McCutcheon to make it 14-3 with 8: 09 left in the half.

"They gave me a lot of looks on third down today," Armour said. "I did everything I could to get open, and Tony was placing the ball really well.

"He was real calm and confident in the huddle; very focused and very smart with the ball. That's how you win in this league. Everybody else stepped up when they were asked."

Like Ismail. He finished with two catches for 43 yards, and he caught the Browns in a blown deep coverage on his first touchdown grab since Week 2 against Pittsburgh.

"The first drive, we got confidence running the ball," Ismail said. "That second [scoring] drive gave our whole offense confidence."

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