Mitchell provides pick-me-up

Special teams player fills in, stands out with go-ahead TD, defense

Ravens 24/titans 10

January 08, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After a victory that sent the Ravens to the AFC championship game, coach Brian Billick singled out Anthony Mitchell yesterday as someone who personifies his team.

It was an easy compliment to make after Mitchell returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a touchdown to give the Ravens a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter over the Tennessee Titans.

But it was more than the touchdown that prompted Billick to make that statement. It was Mitchell playing 11 games in NFL Europe last summer, having almost no time off before training camp, then playing in all 18 games this season as a key special teamer.

Mitchell, a safety, also played in the Ravens' package of five defensive backs yesterday because of an injury to starting strong safety Kim Herring.

"To go through the regular season as one of our top special teams players, to be pushed into a starting role in our nickel package and to come up the way he did, that is what this team is about," Billick said.

Mitchell's touchdown proved to be all the Ravens would need to pull ahead of the defending AFC champion Titans to stay, though they added another score later in the quarter to win, 24-10.

Mitchell's score was set up by Keith Washington, who blocked Al Del Greco's 37-yard field-goal try. Mitchell caught the deflected ball at the Ravens' 10, sprinted to his right, then ran up the sideline. He used Corey Harris' block on Erron Kinney to turn the corner, then Chris McAlister's block on Frank Wycheck to run virtually untouched into the end zone.

Mitchell's only regret was that he could not perform the same feat on the Ravens' previous blocked field goal shortly before halftime.

"The first one they blocked, it rolled into the back of the end zone but I wanted to pick that one up," Mitchell said.

"When the second one came, it came right to me. It was hanging for a while but then I just picked it up and ran outside. Somebody cut me off. I saw the kicker wasn't going to catch me, so I cut it in and ran down the middle of the field.

"It turned things around and gave us more faith than what we had. It helped us out and picked us up a little."

The Titans went three-and-out on the drive after the touchdown and ran Eddie George just once the rest of the game, deviating from their game plan because of the score.

"I remember everybody screaming," defensive tackle Lional Dalton said of Mitchell's touchdown. "I got up and I saw Anthony run into the end zone. I started running and dancing and screaming at Tennessee's sideline."

Said Ravens guard Edwin Mulitalo: "You think of those things not happening to our team. You see it on the highlight films. But when you see it happen to us, you're like, `He's going to get tackled! No, he's going to score a touchdown!'"

This is Mitchell's second season with the Ravens, as he spent the bulk of 1999 on the practice squad. He played for the Rhein Fire, which went to the World Bowl in NFL Europe, before winning a spot on the 53-man Ravens roster during training camp this season. He was third on the Ravens in special teams tackles with 18.

Mitchell admits to being a little worn after so much football in less than a year, but he says he's ready to keep playing.

"My legs feel good," Mitchell said. "Coach Billick did a good job with me. And I'm just going to continue to keep rolling."

Key play of the game

The game's turning point came with just under 12:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Titans were attempting a 37-yard field goal to take a 13-10 lead. The Ravens' Rob Burnett (90) was lined up to the immediate left of the Titans' snapper, and Keith Washington (93) to Burnett's right. Washington slanted toward the middle in front of Burnett and got his right hand up and blocked Al Del Greco's kick.

Anthony Mitchell (42), who was lined up on the outside, circled back and caught the deflected ball at the 10-yard line. Mitchell turned up the right sideline and picked up a block from Corey Harris on the Titans' Erron Kinney at the Ravens' 25. He raced down the sideline, then cut inside a block by Chris McAlister on Frank Wycheck at the Titans' 40, and went untouched the rest of the way to give the Ravens a 17-10 lead.

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