Ravens' run of luck yet to be denied

November 13, 2001|By Mike Preston

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Weird things are starting to happen with the Ravens, just like last season.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers missed four field-goal tries and the Ravens won. Last night, the Ravens pulled out their own Music City Miracle as strong safety Corey Harris and linebacker Jamie Sharper combined to stop a goal-line quarterback sneak by Steve McNair on the final play to preserve the Ravens' 16-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Adelphia Coliseum.

You just can't bet against this team even if it doesn't have a decent quarterback or a prime-time running back. This team does have a defense that plays well enough to win and 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 poor enough to lose and should have been beaten last night. McNair seemed to have tied the game with a quarterback sneak as time expired, leaving only the extra point to be kicked for victory. 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 over to the defensive side of the ball after Kevin Dyson caught a 5-yard pass down to the Ravens' 1--yard line. Boulware touched one of the Titans' offensive linemen while heading back, and that automatically halts the play.

No touchdown.

On the next play, defensive tackle Sam 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, only to get caught and stopped by Sharper and Harris.

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 championship a year ago.

Let's flash back to 2000. Shannon Sharpe catches a carom and turns it into a long touchdown pass against Denver in the wild-card playoff game. The Titans' Al Del Greco, one of the most reliable kickers in the game, misses field-goal attempts in a playoff game against the Ravens. How about the short pass that Sharpe turned into a long touchdown reception against the Oakland Raiders? If teams are supposed to run out of luck, then the Ravens are still waiting.

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 second left, but the play was nullified on a holding penalty. On the next play, the Titans blew the snap on the field goal 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 to 238 for the Ravens. The Titans had almost an 11-minute advantage in time of possession and converted on 11 of 22 third-down situations, compared to three of 13 for the Titans.

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, and thank goodness I get paid to watch them play.

They are bad on the eyes, tough on the ticker. By now you've probably thrown five shoes through your television screen when watching them.

But guess where they Ravens are sitting now? 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 the Cleveland Browns, both of whom beat the Ravens earlier this season. It just seems almost too unreal to be true.

The Ravens haven't gotten solid play at quarterback out of either Elvis Grbac or Randall Cunningham. The right side of the offensive line has been horrendous, and none of their running backs can pick up a blitz. They have been complacent at times,yet still find themselves in the playoff hunt.

Unbelievable. This team hasn't pulled all the rabbits out of the hat yet. The line to the bandwagon is starting to form to the left.

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