Starks burns over Johnson's catch

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Cornerback can't believe no push called on play

Cunningham fills in again

Browns 24, Ravens 14

October 22, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - Ravens cornerback Duane Starks looked to the official for an explanation and instead got the silent treatment.

Starks, who was pushed by Cleveland Browns receiver Kevin Johnson on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch in the third quarter of the Ravens' 24-14 loss yesterday, was livid after the play and not much happier in the locker room after the game.

Starks said he immediately asked the referee why no flag was thrown, but got no response.

"I think [Johnson] paid the refs off on that," Starks said, risking an NFL fine. "He pushed me 3 yards away from him, and I had to make up enough speed to catch up with him again. It was real obvious what happened.

"From my understanding, one of their teammates said he gets away with it every week. He must have something going with the officials. But ... it's over and done with."

Starks was victimized for another touchdown on the next Browns play, though he had good coverage on receiver Quincy Morgan.

The ball grazed Starks' hands and landed squarely in Morgan's for a 36-yard score that put the Browns up 24-6 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.

"I was going for the interception and I just missed the ball," Starks said. "It tipped my fingers but still landed in his hands. Things like that happen sometimes. I'm not going to get too low with the lows and too high with the highs."

Suddenly, on the spot

Quarterback Randall Cunningham replaced an injured Elvis Grbac with the Ravens trailing by double digits for the second straight week.

Against Green Bay, Cunningham rallied the Ravens to two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He was not as successful yesterday, but did cut a 24-6 decifit to 10 on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail midway through the fourth quarter (he also hit Ismail for the ensuing two-point conversion).

Cunningham finished 11-for-25 passing for 120 yards and no interceptions after entering with 5:10 left in the third quarter. He did take four sacks.

"They adjusted the game plan in the second half to some of the things I like to do," Cunningham said. "It's always difficult with the game being like it was, but [coach] Brian [Billick] and [offensive coordinator] Matt [Cavanaugh] put in some things they know I'm capable of running."

With Grbac's status for next week uncertain, Cunningham said he's prepared to start if called on.

"I'll do what they ask me to do," Cunningham said. "My role is my role, whether I'm second or third team. As long as it's defined."

Allen's day cut short

Starting running back Terry Allen left after the fourth play of the Ravens' opening possession and did not return.

Allen sprained his left ankle on a 7-yard run two plays earlier, and was forced out after gaining four yards on a first-and-10 from the Ravens' 47.

"I kept my pads on, so I was hoping I would be able to go," Allen said. "But I knew at halftime that it wasn't going to allow me to go."

Allen expressed optimism that he'd be able to return soon. "It's not too bad. I'll be back," he said.

Jason Brookins and Obafemi Ayanbadejo combined to rush for 94 yards on 22 attempts in place of Allen.

Trapp heard nothing

Defensive back James Trapp swears he did not hear a whistle.

Trapp's crushing hit on Browns returner Dennis Northcutt after the Ravens were forced to punt on their opening possession of the second half was heard throughout the stadium. Northcutt fumbled, but an official's whistle blew when Northcutt went down.

Billick attempted to challenge the call, but the officials would not allow it because of the whistle.

"When you don't see the fair catch, you dig a little extra harder to get the big hit," Trapp said. "I was looking for a momentum changer.

"It should have been a fumble. I saw the ball on the ground and jumped on it. It was not a whistle."

Confusion over downs

Billick said the Ravens missed out on a chance to get in the end zone late in the first half.

There was confusion as to whether Ayanbadejo's 3-yard run was enough for a first down with nine seconds left in the half on a third-and-three.

After the run, the Ravens called time and the down marker read fourth down. The stadium announcer also announced fourth down as the team was breaking the huddle, which forced a mad scramble for the field-goal unit to come in.

In reality, the Ravens had picked up enough for the first down. Matt Stover ended up kicking a 38-yard field goal that cut the Browns' lead to 10-6.

"I was a little disappointed," Billick said. "We were hoping to get one more play off, but they were confused about the first down. Half of them thought it was first; the others didn't. They didn't move the chains. They were ready to keep it fourth. The 25-second clock was running. It forced us just to go in and get a field goal."

Happy Browns owner

Browns owner Al Lerner was delighted with his team's win.

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