Ravens stuff Titans' bid

On repeat play at end, defense stops McNair 1 yard short of win

`Craziest game I've been in'

Ismail 57-yard TD, Je. Lewis return key after scoreless 1st half

Ravens 16, Titans 10

November 13, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Ravens got the last word with a last-second stand.

Stuffing the Titans' Steve McNair on a quarterback sneak, the Ravens held off Tennessee for a 16-10 victory last night in the final - and possibly most memorable - installment of this bitter divisional rivalry.

"By far it's the craziest game I've ever been a part of," defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "[Defensive coordinator] Marvin [Lewis] called maximus blitz. That means everyone is going in. We knew they were going to come with the quarterback sneak. But we've got a lot up front."

Providing a classic finish in their Monday Night Football debut, the Ravens (6-3) won for the third time at Adelphia Coliseum to remain a half game off the AFC Central lead and now have five of their final seven regular-season games at home. The Titans (3-5), who are 18-1 at home against the rest of the league, were silenced again by their archrival and watched their fading playoff chances take a major hit.

"It was worth staying up for," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "On the road, in an environment like this, that's got to mean something. We're earned the right to be a home for a while. We've weathered this storm."

On the 15th play of the game-ending 77-yard drive, McNair hit receiver Kevin Dyson, who was stopped at the 1-yard line by Jamie Sharper and Duane Starks with 11 seconds remaining and Tennessee out of timeouts. Rushing to the line, McNair dived behind center Bruce Matthews for the apparent winning touchdown. But Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware was jumping across the middle of the line trying to get back onside when the ball was snapped, and a flag was thrown.

Since he made contact with an offensive player before the touchdown, the score was taken off the scoreboard and the play is ruled dead. The Ravens were penalized half the distance to the goal line and their defensive pride was placed on the line.

Backed at their 1-yard line with three seconds remaining, the Ravens received a push by defensive tackle Sam Adams to clog the middle for McNair. Then, as McNair tried to escape to the right side, Ravens safety Corey Harris made the first hit and linebackers Sharper and Ray Lewis finished him off to preserve the win.

"Penetration baby, penetration," Adams said.

"I guess if you're in this game long enough, you think at times that you've seen it all, then you experience this," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We do not like the interpretation of the call. I do not agree with it." The wild finish was set up a series of twists.

The first half closed with a Ravens touchdown and a Titans field goal being taken off the scoreboard.

Diving on third-and-inches with 2:09 left in the second quarter, McNair watched the ball pop in the air when he hit the ground. Ravens safety Rod Woodson picked up the ball and ran down the left side 69 yards for an apparent touchdown with 1:45 left in the second quarter. But the referees overturned the score on replay, ruling that McNair's elbow was on the ground before fumbling.

The drive continued and appeared to have ended on a 24-yard field goal by Nedney. However, the Titans' Brian Natkin, a practice squad player recently signed to replace injured tight end Erron Kinney, was called for holding.

Now, kicking a 34-yard attempt, the snap by veteran Bruce Matthews sailed high and was pulled down by a standing holder Craig Hentrich, who had no choice but to take off. Getting chased down by Chris McAlister, Hentrich had to hurry his throw and was intercepted by Duane Starks in the end zone with 14 seconds left in the second quarter to end the half at a scoreless tie.

It was the first interception in five games and bailed out a secondary that had dropped three picks in the first half.

The strange play at the end of the first half spilled into the second.

When the Ravens' first drive after halftime stalled, punter Kyle Richardson watched an eye-level snap sail through his hands and chased it down in the end zone where he threw to Anthony Mitchell. But Mitchell was stopped at the Ravens' 8-yard line, giving Tennessee its deepest penetration of the entire game.

The Ravens' defense clamped down and pushed the Titans back a yard. This time, Tennessee converted its field-goal chance, as Nedney hit a 27-yarder to put the Titans up 3-0. The game's first points came in the 35th minute and on a scoring drive that read: four plays, minus-1 yard.

The Ravens' answer came from Jermaine Lewis, who returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the Titans' 26. Lewis' career-best kickoff return of the regular season was 5 yards more than the Ravens' total offense at that point (71 yards).

A possession that took the Ravens 3:38 to go 4 yards was finished off by Matt Stover's 31-yard field goal. That extended Stover's NFL record to 35 straight games with a field goal and tied the game at 3-3 with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter.

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