Picks are salve for Starks

Two interceptions comforting thoughts after knee to the ribs

Cornerback comes up big

Ravens 16, Raiders 3

Ravens Extra

January 15, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Duane Starks grinned, then grimaced.

The Ravens' unappreciated cornerback experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of a knee to the ribs yesterday. He played the second half hurt, but he'll heal.

The Oakland Raiders, conversely, were unable to recover from his two interceptions - pivotal stops that helped seal the Ravens' 16-3 win in the AFC championship game and a berth in the Super Bowl.

"They [the Raiders' receivers] were frustrated because their quarterback couldn't get the ball to them without me intercepting it," Starks said. "This is amazing. I just wish I wasn't hurt."

Starks took pain medication and moved gingerly in a jubilant locker room. Early in the third quarter, he came up to challenge the tight end, and got a knee to the ribs for the effort.

He played on, and finished a stellar effort that underscored how far the third-year pro has progressed from last season, when he lost his starting job.

Starks led the Ravens in interceptions during the regular season with six, two coming in the regular-season finale against the New York Jets.

His first interception yesterday set up a chip-shot field goal by Matt Stover that extended the Ravens' halftime lead to 10-0.

The second came in the third quarter, two plays after Jamal Lewis' fumble had set up the Raiders in Ravens territory, and it deflated a crowd crying for Baltimore blood.

On the second play of the second quarter, Andre Rison beat Starks for a 16-yard gain and the Raiders' initial first down. On its next possession, Oakland went back to that play on a big third down.

Quarterback Rich Gannon had just left the game with a shoulder injury. It was Bobby Hoying's second play and first pass attempt, and Starks looked more like the intended receiver than James Jett, a secondary option.

"When Rison caught that earlier pass, I was thinking, `I should have broken that one up,' " Starks said. "The strong safety [Corey Harris] did a good job of holding the curl [route] off. I took the right read, broke on the ball and came out on top. Because I had been beaten earlier, it baited them and put us in position to get three points."

The Ravens were ahead 13-3 in the third quarter when Lewis lost a fumble at the Ravens' 43-yard line. On second down, Gannon underthrew Rison deep. Starks had the play smothered, gathered in the ball at the 15 and returned it to midfield.

"On the second one, they tried to go deep, but I didn't feel threatened at all," Starks said. "He [Rison] wasn't giving me the deep threat. He's a great receiver, but he never threatened me deep. I watched so much film of these guys, I felt very comfortable."

It was another day when an opponent had no success on the ground and would be forced to test Starks and fellow cornerback Chris McAlister, who held Tim Brown to five catches and 48 yards.

The Raiders' only pass that went longer than 19 yards was to running back Terry Kirby.

"We were definitely licking our chops," Starks said. "We know that our defensive line is going to play well and that somewhere down the line, they [the Raiders] have to put the ball in the air.

"The key to shutting down Tim Brown is shutting down the run. They wanted to be versatile, but they had to throw."

The Super Bowl will be played in Tampa, Fla., which is not all that far from Starks' hometown of Miami Beach.

"I've got a lot of family to get tickets for," he said.

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