Del Greco, Tennessee fold on the strength of Washington's hand

Reserve steps to front, blocks 2 field-goal tries

2nd turns into winning TD

January 08, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Whenever the momentum began to swing away from the Ravens, Keith Washington swatted it back their way.

The Ravens' reserve defensive lineman blocked two field-goal attempts yesterday, putting his willful stamp on the 24-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

His tip of Al Del Greco's 45-yard try in the second quarter preserved a 7-7 tie. His slap of a 37-yarder early in the fourth became the pivotal play of the game. It not only saved the Ravens from a deficit, but resulted in Anthony Mitchell's 90-yard, game-winning touchdown return.

"I knew it would come down to our role players playing better than their role players today," said Washington, who had two blocks in his previous 72 games. "That's what happened."

Washington has few memories of the biggest play of his six-year career.

With the score tied at 10, the Titans lined up for a 37-yard attempt and Washington made a strong, penetrating move up the middle. Then, there was a blackout.

Washington had his chinstrap pushed up and across his eyes by a Tennessee player shoving his facemask. He only remembers the feel of the ball hitting his right hand.

"It didn't faze me," Washington said. "All I knew was that I wanted to block that kick. We needed that."

So how could he block the kick without seeing it?

"I look back at the goal post before kicks," Washington said. "I try to position myself for the trajectory of the ball. Luckily, my calculations were correct on that one."

But Washington was one of the last ones to know the repercussions of his play. After making the block and having his helmet eventually ripped off, he landed on his back.

"When I got up, I saw Anthony Mitchell streaking down the right sideline," Washington said. "That was a tremendous feeling."

While Washington put himself in position for the second block, his first one was purely taking advantage of a mistake.

That time, Washington didn't get a push in the middle. But Del Greco's 45-yard attempt was low and the 6-foot-4 Washington deflected it.

"I was kind of surprised that I got the block because it was basically a stalemate on the line," Washington said. "So I just went up and felt it hit my fingers."

The spotlight has been elusive for Washington.

He made the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad in 1995 as an undrafted free agent. After season stints in Minnesota and with the Detroit Lions, Washington signed with the Ravens in 1997 and has only one career start.

Hanging in the shadows of the Ravens' record-setting defense, he backs up ends Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary. He finished 14th on the team with 29 tackles.

But his impact didn't go unnoticed yesterday.

"It's just another example of this team sticking together and each piece of the puzzle working toward a common goal," Burnett said. "That's a prime example. He came in and made the difference on special teams. I couldn't thank him enough."

Washington, though, has a flair for the dramatic. He hadn't blocked a kick since Dec. 26, 1999, when he knocked down two field-goal attempts to preserve a shutout of Cincinnati.

Although there was a long wait until his next one, he had a feeling that it could come at a special time.

"My wife would always tell me, `One game, you're going to come up big and they're going to need you,' " Washington said. "Hopefully, this is not the biggest game that I'll take part of."

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