Season recap

January 04, 2000|By Gary Lambrecht

Comeback players of the year: Quarterback Tony Banks, running back Errict Rhett and wide receiver Qadry Ismail. Banks revived his career by turning the Ravens' offense into a threat after taking over at midseason. Rhett awakened by rushing for 852 yards, his best numbers since 1995. Ismail had not caught a pass since 1996, yet produced the first 1,000-yard season of his seven-year career.

Best hit: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, blitzing on his own, knocked Atlanta quarterback Tony Graziani out cold during a 19-13, overtime victory on Oct. 3.

Best catch: Patrick Johnson leaped to snatch a pass away from two Tennessee defenders, pulled a calf muscle, then limped down the sideline to complete a 76-yard scoring play on Dec. 5. That ignited the Ravens toward a 41-14 victory and a four-game winning streak.

Best first impression: Rookie cornerback Chris McAlister looked nothing like a rookie for much of the season. He's big, he's fast, he's physical, and he'll be a Pro Bowler soon.

Coolest celebration: The Baltimore Bomb, the Ravens' interception circle dance, which lasted for one week before the league banned it.

Strangest celebration: Running back Priest Holmes, normally a mild-mannered type, ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground after catching a touchdown pass from Banks against New Orleans on Dec. 19. That drew an sportsmanlike conduct penalty and the puzzled looks of teammates.

Ugliest celebration: Johnson's "Dirty Bird" dance after catching a touchdown pass in Atlanta drew a taunting foul and also caused Johnson to get slammed to the turf by enraged Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan.

Worst day: Stoney Case proved he was not ready for prime time by collapsing in a 35-8 loss to Kansas City on national television. Case threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, then took his rightful place on the bench.

Worst defensive breakdown: In a season where the defense was mostly outstanding, the Ravens lost to Buffalo on Oct. 31 by allowing quarterback Doug Flutie to scramble for a crucial, late first down on a fourth-and-15.

Scariest moment: Left tackle Jonathan Ogden suffered a severely sprained neck in Atlanta and was carted off the field on a spine board. Ogden never missed a start.

Most satisfying victory: A tie. By beating Tennessee, 41-14, the Ravens finally proved they could spank a good team. By humiliating Cleveland, 41-9, in Cleveland, they silenced a city that had ripped them endlessly.

Best disappearing act: What happened to wide receiver Jermaine Lewis? The Pro Bowler and big-play man was a non-factor from start to finish in coach Brian Billick's offense. His punt returns were a downer, too.

Most courageous player: Linebacker Peter Boulware wore a harness all year to protect his dislocated shoulder and still earned a Pro Bowl invitation with 10 sacks.

Most underrated player: Left defensive end Rob Burnett had his best season since 1994 and should have gone to the Pro Bowl.

Most improved player: Outside linebacker Jamie Sharper came alive after two disappointing years and also was outstanding on special teams. Sharper finished second on the team with 122 tackles.

Weakest link in the chain: Strong safety Kim Herring had no interceptions, only eight pass deflections and was not a physical presence as a tackler.

Best impression of a revolving door: From Greg DeLong to A. J. Ofodile to Ryan Collins to Lovett Purnell, the Ravens still couldn't find a tight end. They have been looking for one since 1996.

Quotes of the year: "The best way to prepare for Kordell Stewart is to run on a treadmill for two hours every day before practice, then chase a rooster around for a while." -- defensive end Michael McCrary.

"I have the best job in America" -- long snapper Frank Wainright.

"The pace of the game is definitely faster here than it was in college, but I don't feel like it's going to get faster than I am." -- rookie cornerback Chris McAlister.

"I'd rather go 2-14 trying to make something happen [on offense] than bleed at 6-10." -- Billick during a bad day at training camp.

"Tackling him is like trying to tackle a big, old water buffalo." -- Rams defensive tackle D'Marco Farr, describing Scott Mitchell after the Ravens quarterback was sacked three times in St. Louis' season-opening, 27-10 victory.

"I know darn well we're not going to get a call in Cleveland, no way, no shape, no form, no how. The league would really like to see Cleveland beat us." -- Billick, before the Ravens/Browns game in Cleveland. The Ravens won, 41-9.

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