Taylor latches onto big expectations

Receiver gets first start, then makes most of it with game-winning TD

Ravens 20, Broncos 13

October 01, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- The production met the expectations for Ravens receiver Travis Taylor.

Taylor led the team with 90 yards on four catches in yesterday's 20-13 Ravens win over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High. One of the catches was the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Elvis Grbac.

"That's what you expect out of a Travis Taylor," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "When you pick a guy 10th [in the draft], you expect a certain level of production. Now he has to come back and do that week after week."

With Brandon Stokley hampered because of a knee injury, Taylor started his first game of the season and his first since fracturing his clavicle midway through last year.

He made his presence known early when he took a Grbac pass 63 yards on the first play of the Ravens' fourth possession.

Taylor broke through a Broncos' safety tackle in the middle of the field, then sprinted about 40 yards down the sideline with the help of a Qadry Ismail block before Eric Brown tackled him at the Denver 17.

That play helped set up Matt Stover's 29-yard field goal, cutting the Broncos' lead to 7-3. Before that, the Ravens' offense had produced a turnover and two three-and-outs.

"I was following Qadry," Taylor said. "Wherever he was going, I was going. The guy overplayed it, so I cut back. When I cut back, the guy came from behind and got me. It was the perfect ball for me to keep running with it."

Taylor's biggest play came on the touchdown, his first of the season, with 8:51 left in the game. With the score tied at 13, Grbac took a third-and-three snap, sprinted to his right and found Taylor, with little separation from cornerback Denard Walker, near the sideline.

It was the kind of play Grbac said could resurface.

"Travis came up big on the touchdown," Grbac said. "I guess the guy was grabbing his arm, and he made a one-handed catch, really fought through it.

"I've been in this system a long time. It's one of those things you learn from a guy like Joe Montana, who threw it to a Jerry Rice for I don't know how many years. I don't see anybody stopping that play for some time, especially when you get man-to-man coverage. And you have to have a strong wide receiver and a quick receiver. Travis just made a great play."

It has been a winding road for Taylor since coming to the Ravens after his junior season at the University of Florida. After becoming a starter in the second game last year, Taylor went on to catch 28 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns in nine games before the season-ending injury.

He was not able to regain his starting spot during the preseason and had few passes thrown his way the first two games. Taylor did not have any catches in the first game, one in which nine Ravens had at least one reception.

Was this the kind of game Taylor was waiting to have? "It felt great but all the credit goes to Elvis," he said. `The guy was putting the ball in there perfectly.

"I don't want to say I've been waiting on it. I expect that out of me every game. I just try to go out every game and do my best."

Such a game by Taylor, who physically has the best attributes of any Ravens receivers with his size, speed and route-running ability, may push him back into the starting lineup even when Stokley is healthy. The coaches, though, like using Taylor more from the slot position.

"It doesn't matter if I'm starting or coming off the bench, I'm comfortable with it," Taylor said. "I'm content with myself right now. God has blessed me in every possible way."

Said Billick: "You've got to remember how young he is; this is really just a rookie year for him," Billick said. "Last year should have been his senior year at Florida. He does have that kind of ability."

Catching on

Including yesterday, Travis Taylor has put together six games with four or more receptions in his brief NFL career:

Date ........... Opp. ..... Rec. ..... Yds. ..... TD

9-3-00 ......... Pit. ......... 4 ......... 50 ........ 0

9-10-00 ...... Jac. ......... 4 .......... 80 ........ 2

9-24-00 ...... Cin. ......... 4 ......... 32 ........ 1

10-01-00 ..... Cle. ........ 5 .......... 39 ........ 0

9-23-01 ....... Cin. ........ 4 .......... 44 ........ 0

9-30-01 .......Den. ........ 4 .......... 90 ........ 1

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