Ravens win following old script

With 1:55 to play, Demps returns pickoff for only TD of game to beat Lions, 12-6

Billick sees some good, some bad

Revamped team uses familiar method: `D' saves sputtering offense

August 10, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

After an off-season of change, the Ravens' preseason opened with a familiar story line.

In a 12-6 victory over the Detroit Lions last night, the Ravens' starting offense sputtered and their first-team defense strutted. Despite a 50 percent turnover in personnel, the Ravens failed to escape the mistakes of their offense but capitalized on the stinginess of their defense against a Lions team that managed two wins last season.

Reserve safety Will Demps ended the battle of field goals, picking off Lions quarterback Joey Harrington and returning it 18 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:55 left in the game. While the names have changed on the Ravens' defense, its flair for the dramatics has not.

"Well, we did some good things, we did some bad things," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Obviously, there's going to be a lot to correct on. There were missed opportunities and reads that [Chris Redman] has to make. So, there's a lot to improve on."

In Redman's debut as starting quarterback, the Ravens marched inside Lions territory on five of six drives but came away with only a 44-yard Matt Stover field goal. Three Ravens turnovers inside the Lions' 30-yard line stymied their early scoring chances and led to all six of Detroit's first-half points.

Meanwhile, the Ravens' new-look defense delivered the same old results, holding Detroit's starting offense to 56 total yards. With erratic quarterback Mike McMahon, the Lions couldn't produce a first down on five of their first six drives.

The Ravens roughed up Lions quarterbacks with three interceptions and eight sacks. Inside linebacker Ed Hartwell and backup defensive tackle Nate Bolling each racked up a team-high two sacks.

The defense then finished a game that it controlled from the start.

Watching Harrington's eyes the entire time, Demps intercepted a pass thrown into a crowd of Ravens defenders, ran from the right side of the field to the left and then dove into the end zone. After the game's only touchdown, Ravens backup kicker J.R. Jenkins hooked the extra point wide left.

"I never had a doubt that I couldn't play in this league," said Demps, an undrafted rookie out of San Diego State. "It still hasn't hit me yet. I'm still in awe."

The Ravens' defensive effort was even more impressive considering four starters - defensive ends Michael McCrary (knee) and Tony Weaver (ankle), outside linebacker Peter Boulware (ankle), cornerback Gary Baxter (hamstring) - were out because of injuries.

"I'm scared of this defense," Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said. "These young guys went out and picked up the pace. They ran to the ball and they got the job done. It shows that these young guys are just as hungry as we are. They know their assignments and we've got a lot of young talented guys out there."

Redman, the Ravens' No. 3 quarterback the past two seasons, proved more scrappy than scintillating. He finished 10-for-20 for 93 yards, withstanding numerous hits from blitzes and keeping plays alive by breaking free of tackles.

But Redman paid for his two biggest errors.

After Ravens cornerback Alvin Porter intercepted a McMahon pass, the Ravens drove to Detroit's 30-yard line. Redman, though, overthrew receiver Travis Taylor on a deep route and was picked off by Brian Walker at the 5.

Walker's 51-yard return set Detroit up at the Ravens' 44. McMahon connected with tight end Mikhael Ricks for a 22-yard pass on the first play, but the Lions couldn't move the ball past the Ravens' 17.

Jason Hanson's 42-yard field goal put Detroit ahead 3-0 five seconds into the second quarter.

The Ravens responded nearly four minutes later, when return specialist Lamont Brightful broke a 34-yard punt return to Detroit's 33-yard line. After two Tellis Redmon runs and a Redman incompletion, Stover hit a 44-yarder that barely made it over the crossbar to tie the game at 3.

The Ravens looked to take the lead late in the first half, when Redman hit Ron Johnson for a 21-yard pass, his longest completion of the game. But at the Lions' 26, Redman fumbled the snap from backup center Jason Taylor and Detroit again converted a turnover into points.

Finishing off a nine-play, 36-yard drive, Hanson's 53-yard field goal lifted the Lions to a 6-3 lead with a second left before halftime.

Ravens backup quarterback Jeff Blake didn't fare much better in the second half, completing eight of 15 passes for 75 yards.

"We have to start somewhere," Redman said. "I missed some things, but I felt comfortable and relaxed. The fumble on the snap bothers me. I can't have mistakes like that. I felt like we moved the ball OK but the turnovers killed us once we crossed the 50."

The Ravens repaid the favor in the third quarter, when Rod Taylor delivered an interception in Detroit territory. With the offense failing to make a first down, Jenkins hit a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 6 with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter.

Although the Ravens' offense struggled in the first half, their defense provided the highlights.

In stopping five drives by the Lions' first-team offense, the Ravens came up strong on third downs with two sacks, two pass breakups and one interception. Detroit may not have the most imposing attack, but the Ravens are learning how to make their own big plays.

"How about those young players against their first offense," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "They're schooled. Think about it - that's scary."

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