Ravens' run of luck yet to be denied

November 13, 2001|By Mike Preston

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The bandwagon line is beginning to form for the Ravens.

It's nothing definite, and it had seemed like the Ravens had pulled all the rabbits out of their hats last season, but there always seems to be another one.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers missed four field-goal attempts and the Ravens won. Last night, the Ravens pulled out their own Music City Miracle against the Tennessee Titans.

On the last play of the game, Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams, strong safety Corey Harris and linebacker Jamie Sharper combined to stop Steve McNair on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line, and the Ravens held on for a 16-10 victory at Adelphia Coliseum.

You just can't bet against this team. The Ravens haven't gotten much production out of their quarterbacks or running backs, and the offensive line has had problems, too, but the team plays good defense and has a whole lot of luck.

Who said the Colts took the horseshoes with them to Indianapolis when they moved out of Baltimore in 1984?

The Ravens (6-3) played poorly enough to lose and should have been beaten last night. McNair seemed to have won the game with a quarterback sneak as time expired. The crowd was going crazy, McNair was taking a victory lap, and the Titans seemed to have broken their three-game losing streak to the Ravens. But then Lady Luck took over.

Upon further review, game officials noticed that Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware was slow getting back to the defensive side of the ball after Kevin Dyson caught a 5-yard pass down to the Ravens' 1. Boulware touched a Titans offensive lineman while heading back, and that automatically halts the play.

No touchdown.

On the next play, Adams got a tremendous jump on the ball and penetrated the gap to shut down McNair. McNair tried to bounce outside on a second effort but was brought down by Harris, with help from Sharper.

Game over.

The Ravens continue to own Tennessee, and we're beginning to see some of the same magic and luck that led the Ravens to the Super Bowl championship last season.

The formula is the same. The defense plays well, the offense gets a big play like Qadry Ismail's 57-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, the special teams contribute a play like Jermaine Lewis' 76-yard kickoff return, and the Ravens get some breaks.

Let's look back at the 2000 season. Tight end Shannon Sharpe caught a carom for a long touchdown reception against Denver in the wild-card playoff game. How about Titans kicker Al Del Greco, one of the most reliable in the game, missing three field-goal attempts the next week against the Ravens? Or the short pass that Sharpe turned into a long touchdown catch against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC title game? If teams are supposed to run out of luck, then the Ravens are still waiting.

Sooner or later, teams start to believe in this destiny thing. And it's happening again.

"It is a really good feeling on the sideline because there is no panic," said quarterback Elvis Grbac. "A lot of teams, when it is close in the fourth quarter, there could be a lot of panic and doubt, and you just don't see that here."

Sharpe said: "It took a game like this last year to get us going in the right direction and I hope this will be the catalyst to propel us through the rest of the year."

But it just wasn't the last play of the game. Look at the last series of the first half. Tennessee kicker Joe Nedney converted a 24-yard field goal with 28 seconds left, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty. Tennessee tried again and botched the snap, and holder Craig Hentrich's pass was intercepted by Ravens cornerback Duane Starks in the end zone.

If that wasn't enough, look at the Ravens' offensive effort. Tennessee had 318 yards of total offense compared with 238 for the Ravens. The Titans had almost an 11-minute advantage in time of possession and converted 11 of 22 third-down situations, compared with three of 13 for the Ravens.

And the Ravens still won.

It's never pretty with this team, but it doesn't have to be in the watered-down NFL. The Ravens are horrible to watch. They are bad on the eyes, tough on the ticker. By now you've probably thrown five shoes through your television screen.

But guess where they Ravens are sitting? They are 6-3, a half game behind the AFC Central-leading Pittsburgh Steelers. There are seven games left, five of them at PSINet Stadium, one each against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, both of whom beat the Ravens earlier this season. It just seems too unreal to be true.

The Ravens haven't gotten solid play at quarterback from Grbac or Randall Cunningham. The right side of the offensive line has been horrendous, and their running backs can't pick up a blitz. It's not going to get much better offensively. They are what they are.

But that's still good enough to be in contention. You would expect the Ravens' luck to end now. Actually, the team might be on a roll too soon. This kind of stuff usually happens later in the season.

But you can't bet against the Ravens. It's time to think about forming that bandwagon line.

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