Ravens block out bigger role for Evans

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Aside from leading Rhett, fullback gains 47, grabs TD pass

McAlister tested

November 29, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens fullback Chuck Evans could not remember the last time he was so involved in the offense.

Yesterday, the man who is paid primarily to put linebackers on the ground as a lead blocker did it all. He played his customary position and dished out some good blocks. He caught three passes out of the backfield. And when the Ravens went to a three-wide receiver set, Evans often was the featured back.

Evans even took a rare trip to the end zone, when he caught only the second touchdown pass of his seven-year career to give the Ravens their final lead in yesterday's 30-23 loss to Jacksonville.

"I just try to do what I'm asked, and I try to do it well. It's nothing special to me," Evans said. "I had to bounce around a little bit today. Fullback, tailback, whatever the team needs."

When Evans took the free-agency route out of Minnesota and signed a three-year, $3 million contract with the Ravens in February, he followed then-offensive coordinator Brian Billick to Baltimore with the expectation that he would handle the ball more.

Yesterday, Evans represented the most potent option in a ground game that has stalled in recent weeks. Evans, 6 feet 1, 243 pounds, carried a season-high eight times for a team-high 47 yards against the Jaguars, including a 12-yarder late in the first quarter, during which he ran over strong safety Donovin Darius.

Evans accounted for three first downs and six points.

His best moment came with 6: 26 left in the game and the Ravens trailing 22-16. After a 46-yard pass completion from Tony Banks to Jermaine Lewis, Evans looped out of the backfield and was wide-open for a 3-yard scoring pass to give the Ravens a short-lived, 23-22 advantage.

Said Billick: "My plan bringing Chuckie in here was to use him more like [Minnesota short-yardage running back] Leroy Hoard. We'll mix and match Chuck, and we'll continue to use him that way."

Evans already is on a pace to have his most active season, in terms of touching the ball. Evans has carried 26 times for 104 yards this year. Only his 1997 season (43 carries, 157 yards) yielded higher totals. He already has set single-season highs in receiving with 23 catches for 181 yards.

Drop haunts McAlister

Rookie cornerback Chris McAlister knew a tough test was coming yesterday, and there were no surprises.

McAlister had his hands full all day, trying to track the likes of Jaguars receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. He had one prospective interception apiece broken up by them.

McAlister also let a gift slip through his hands and off his shoulder pads. With the Ravens leading 7-0 midway through the first quarter, he stepped in front of McCardell for a pass on the sideline at the Jacksonville 40, with nothing separating him from the end zone but green grass.

Clank.

"That hurt more than anything all day," said McAlister, who recorded four solo tackles and broke up three passes. "That was an easy seven points. That could have been an early dagger in their heart. If you want to count plays, that could have been a play that turned the game around."

Noise about quiet fans

Several of the Ravens privately complained about the fans not "getting into the game" or cheering at key times when the Jaguars had the ball. Several times players motioned for fans to get up and make crowd noise to disturb the Jacksonville offense, but to no avail.

"What's wrong with the fans here?" said one player, who requested he not be named. "Two weeks ago, we go down to Jacksonville and their fans are making so much noise I can't hear the play or the cadence. Today, our fans sat around and didn't get up until the end.

"I think they need to be educated a little. Cheering fans is what the home-field advantage is all about."

J. Lewis' fleeting moment

There was a memorable Jermaine Lewis sighting near the end of yesterday's game.

Lewis, suffering through the most disappointing season of his four-year career, didn't exactly have a breakout game. He did enjoy a breakout moment, though, when he streaked past safety Carnell Lake and made a diving catch to set up the Ravens' final score.

The play went for 46 yards to the Jacksonville 3. That easily counts as Lewis' biggest play of the year. Before yesterday, his longest gain from scrimmage had been 28 yards.

That was all the offense Lewis could generate, and it left him with 20 catches for 209 yards this season. He has yet to score.

No Jim Marshall here

When he saw the black paint in the Ravens' end zone, Jaguars defensive end Tony Brackens knew he was not going the wrong way.

That was the first thing he thought about after his interception that gave the Jaguars their first lead of the day early in the fourth quarter.

Brackens stepped in front of a Banks pass intended for Errict Rhett, made the interception and ran 21 yards for the touchdown.

"When I caught it, I was like, `What am I going to do now?' " said Brackens, who also got his franchise-record ninth sack. "So I took off running. I was just hoping that I wasn't running the wrong way."

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