Cavanaugh makes little go a long way

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

45-yard pass on 3rd-and-1 is shining moment for coordinator

Starks on roll

Ravens notebook

Pro Football

January 15, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The times were going to be few and far between, so Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh knew he needed to take that chance.

Cavanaugh took a calculated gamble deep in Ravens territory during the team's 20-3 wild-card playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins at Pro Player Stadium on Sunday.

Disdaining a running play that likely would have gained a first down after the Ravens had established themselves on the ground much of the day, Cavanaugh chose to let Elvis Grbac go deep on a third-and-one from the Ravens' 10 with under six minutes left in the third quarter.

The result was a 45-yard completion to wide receiver Travis Taylor over cornerback Patrick Surtain, who was in man-to-man coverage. The call set up an eventual touchdown pass to Taylor that put the Ravens up 14-3.

What led Cavanaugh to make such a call after running back Terry Allen had been tearing through Miami's defense?

"The thing that happens in a game like that is regardless of how well you're running the ball, at some point you have to hit some plays down the field," Cavanaugh said. "Whenever you think you can orchestrate a shot like that, you need to do it. And we are not afraid to throw the ball backed up [close to the goal line]. If you don't hit, we accomplished the fact that they know we will throw the ball up. ... We have confidence in our defense. We just felt like the odds were in our favor to get the coverage we wanted, which against that defense, you don't get very often."

Surtain hesitated for a moment as Taylor created a step separation down the sideline.

"They are multiple on third-and-one, but two out of the three things they do are aggressive," Cavanaugh said of the Dolphins' coverage. "They come out of their zone and play man. We just felt like that was the point where they were going to do it. They had us backed up, and needed us to punt. They expected us to run the ball and got into a front that made them play one-on-one coverage with a safety in the middle of the field. When they do that, they normally press, and we felt like in press coverage with no safety behind them, the corners were susceptible."

It was the highlight of a day in which the players offered nothing but praise for Cavanaugh's play-calling, which included 50 runs. Ravens coach Brian Billick was equally complimentary.

"Once we found a bit of a formula to hit on, then Matt did a beautiful job of coming back to those things," Billick said. "You just get into a nice rhythm that way. I thought Matt did a wonderful job of it."

12 straight and counting

A couple more wins and tight end Shannon Sharpe feels his record will never be broken.

Sharpe has won 12 consecutive playoffs games, surpassing Green Bay's Herb Adderly and Miami's Harry Swayne.

"Fifteen and nobody will ever get that," Sharpe said. "I'll be in the record books forever. That's my goal."

For that to happen, the Ravens would have to win the Super Bowl this year.

Playoff picker

Duane Starks continued his postseason interception prowess, picking off a Jay Fiedler pass that bounced off James McKnight and into his hands at the Ravens' 2-yard line with just under nine minutes left in the game.

Starks now has four interceptions in five career playoff games.

"It was a pass that was thrown to the opposite side of the field, and I had to stay as close to him as possible," Starks said. "It bounced up in a position to where I could intercept the ball. And once I got it, I had to show a little razzle-dazzle [on his 26-yard return], but those three linemen had me cornered."

Undeserved ejection?

In an otherwise listless performance by the Dolphins, the feistiest player was punter Matt Turk.

Turk got a free run at Ravens linebacker Ed Hartwell, who was entangled with Twan Russell, after a punt on the Dolphins' second possession in the first quarter. Though Turk's hit was close to dirty, Hartwell drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness and was thrown out of the game for throwing a punch at Russell.

"Having looked at the TV copy and looked at the film, I'm not sure what [referee Mike Carey] thought he saw," Billick said of the ejection. "In fact, I would have expected something else to happen. I thought their punter was out of line, quite frankly."

A `normal' week

For the first time in nearly a month, the Ravens will return to their normal work-week schedule.

The previous two games had the Ravens playing on a Saturday and a Monday, throwing off their preparation time.

"It's been awhile since we've had a normal week's progression of the Tuesday off, come back on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday," Billick said. "It's against a very familiar opponent [Pittsburgh], so it does have a good feel to it."

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