3 touches, and Taylor is golden


In first playoff game, receiver is key to drive playing in home state


Ravens 20 / Dolphins 3

Ravens Extra

January 14, 2002|By Brent Jones and Paul McMullen | Brent Jones and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- It was his first playoff experience, and when reflecting on the impact he made, Ravens receiver Travis Taylor deferred to his quarterback.

"Elvis [Grbac] just made some great throws all day," Taylor said.

While Grbac did have one of his most effective games of the season in leading the Ravens to a 20-3 win over the Miami Dolphins at Pro Player Stadium, and the Ravens definitely had their running game going (grinding out a team playoff-high 226 yards), Taylor was the team's most dangerous weapon, having an impact on all three of his touches.

Taylor, who missed last year's Super Bowl run after fracturing his clavicle after nine games, made the game's biggest play.

The Ravens were up 7-3, but momentum looked to be headed toward the Dolphins when Taylor hauled in a 45-yard pass from Grbac on a third-and-one play at the Ravens' 10-yard line midway through the third quarter.

Taylor also took an end around 15 yards for a first down and, at the end of the 99-yard drive, he caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Grbac to put the Ravens up 14-3.

"Elvis made a great throw," Taylor said. "He read it the whole way. All the credit goes to him.

"It was supposed to be a fade route, but the defensive back played me outside, so I went inside. [Grbac] saw me go inside and put it on a rope.

"Any time I go back to Florida, I want to have a big game," said Taylor, who played for the University of Florida. "I had a lot of family and friends around here. It was a great feeling getting in that first playoff game and really contributing."

That's teamwork

Once he had the ball in his possession, no one was else getting it.

Defensive tackle Sam Adams recovered Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler's fumble early in the fourth quarter, which set up a Matt Stover field goal that put the Ravens up 17-3. End Peter Boulware caused the fumble, and Adams gave credit to Rob Burnett for helping to cause the recovery.

"That was one of the best stunts I've ever run with Rob Burnett," Adams said. "He set him up beautifully, coming inside and I came around. Then Peter Boulware made a big play. I saw the ball and jumped on it."

Quality protection

The Ravens' ground attack may have received all the attention, but the Ravens were not letting Grbac get hit when he did drop back.

Miami, at times, attempted to blitz its linebackers. Grbac, though, was sacked just once and he was hurried only a couple of other times.

"We were protecting well," said center Mike Flynn. "That was probably our best game all around all year. That's important, especially that one deep in our territory. They brought five or six guys and we blocked it up and got the bomb."

The dominators

It has not been an easy season for the Ravens' offensive line. When it wasn't getting criticized for its inability to protect Grbac, it was getting knocked for opening no holes for the running backs.

The calendar turned from 2000 to 2001, however, and suddenly Jonathan Ogden and company have found their rhythm. A week after putting up 212 yards rushing against the Minnesota Vikings, the Ravens piled up 226.

"That was smashmouth football," Ogden said. "Miami played hard, but we wanted to make a statement. We wanted to make plays. We hadn't made plays all year. The game plan the last few weeks has been to run, control the clock and give the defense a rest. We read and heard about people saying we couldn't run, but we got 200 yards last week.

"This is going to make teams play us more honestly. Pittsburgh is going to have to commit extra guys to the box."

The Ravens' offense didn't commit a turnover, and Ogden credited Grbac.

"He was precise," Ogden said. "He kept it out of harm's way."

The Ravens' defense noticed that the offense held the ball for nearly 38 minutes.

"That's very important," Adams said. "That gives us the opportunity to get rest, and then their [Dolphins] offense gets cold. Confidence is a big part of it. When you see your offense beat them up like that. I don't know if we made a statement, but I liked it."

Tony Siragusa echoed his fellow tackle.

"The offense played unbelievable," Siragusa said. "They came out and dominated. You saw some guys having fun. During the season, it was tough. They didn't have much fun. We're a physical offense, and that's what they want to be."

No harm

Other than the first and last plays, the Ravens owned the first half. It ended with Stover sending a 40-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright, and began with Jermaine Lewis fumbling away the opening kickoff. The Ravens still turned that miscue into an emotional lift, as the defense limited the Dolphins to a 33-yard field goal by Olindo Mare.

"When I make mistakes, they [the defense] always come through for me," Lewis said of the aftermath of his fumble. "That was my fault. The ball popped up when I was just trying to get extra yards."

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