McAlister's return provides finishing kick

Record return of 108 yards closes out half as Ravens roll to 31-0 second quarter

`That's the way we practice it'

Nfl Week 4

Ravens 34, Broncos 23

October 01, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Chris McAlister was a family studies major at Arizona, with an emphasis in broadcasting. He also developed some dramatic skills, which capped the theater of the absurd that was the second quarter at Ravens Stadium last night.

The Denver Broncos were reeling under a 24-3 deficit when they tried to snare some momentum on the last play of the first half. They trotted out Jason Elam for a 57-yard field-goal attempt that squirted toward the left side of the end zone. McAlister fielded the ball, lulled Denver asleep with a few nonchalant steps, and didn't really exert himself until he broke into a high-stepping celebration with a good 20 yards left in the longest play in NFL history.

McAlister's 108-yard return for a touchdown was the longest of any kind in NFL history. No pro had ever brought back a kickoff, punt, interception, field-goal attempt or fumble farther. It was the exclamation point on the weirdest quarter ever at Ravens Stadium, as a blocked punt by Ed Reed and an interception by Ray Lewis were conventional by comparison during a pivotal 15-minute span in which the Ravens outscored the Broncos 31-0.

McAlister didn't seem like he was going to bring the ball out until Lewis, who evidently is the heart of the Ravens' special teams, too, motioned him to bring out an uncommonly weak attempt by Elam. The Denver kicker shares the NFL record for the longest field goal, 63 yards.

Keith Burns was the only Bronco to hustle down and cover the kick. McAlister moved left and blew by Burns, who turned upfield and for his trouble was flattened by Lewis at the 5. McAlister went untouched down the left sideline, where Ravens coach Brian Billick, knees up and arms pumping, did a better job of tracking him than the Broncos.

"That's the way we practice it," McAlister said. "I watched and hung in the end zone and let my guys set up the wall. I got a hell of a block from Ray [Lewis], and we went with the wall. All I saw was purple jerseys and green until I hit the end zone. ... I made a big play, but I wouldn't say it was the biggest one tonight."

Subjective judgments aside, it was the longest play in NFL history. The longest field-goal return in league history had been a 104-yarder, by the New York Jets' Aaron Glenn in 1998, against the Indianapolis Colts. Three players had brought back kickoffs 106 yards, the most recent being Roy Green of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979.

McAlister had one touchdown in his first three NFL seasons, a 98-yard interception return against the Jets' Vinny Testaverde on Dec. 24, 2000. He was the seventh player in college football history to return a kickoff, punt and interception for a touchdown in a single season, and the cornerback got his wish to return punts for the Ravens when Jermaine Lewis went to the Houston Texans.

"I never thought that was going to be the way I got into the end zone," McAlister said.

McAlister's night began shakily. He muffed the punt that concluded Denver's first possession. On the Broncos' second possession, he stepped in front of a pass intended for Shannon Sharpe, but dropped it with nothing but an open field in front of him. McAlister and the rest of the defense asserted itself for the rest of the half, when the final play was the most astounding.

Special teams play was the difference in the game. Besides McAlister's touchdown, the punt that Reed blocked in the second quarter gave the Ravens a short field and set up Jamal Lewis' short touchdown run. That gave the Ravens a 14-3 lead.

Long-distance runback

Chris McAlister's 108-yard return of a missed field goal for a touchdown at the end of the first half is the longest play in NFL history. The longest returns for scores:

Punt return

Player Teams Date Yards

Robert Bailey L.A. Rams vs. New Orleans 10/23/94 103

Kickoff return

Al Carmichael Green Bay vs. Chicago 10/7/56 106

Noland Smith Kansas City vs. Denver 12/17/67 106

Roy Green St. Louis vs. Dallas 10/21/79 106

Interception return

Vencie Glenn San Diego vs. Denver 11/29/87 103

Louis Oliver Miami vs. Buffalo 10/4/92 103

Missed field goal return

Chris McAlister Ravens vs. Denver 9/30/02 108

Aaron Glenn N.Y. Jets vs. Indianapolis 11/15/98 104

Fumble return

Jack Tatum Oakland vs. Green Bay 9/24/72 104

Aeneas Williams Arizona vs. Washington 11/5/00 104

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Cleveland Browns

Site: Cleveland Browns Stadium

When: Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13, ESPN/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Series: Ravens lead 4-2

Last meeting: Browns won, 27-17, on Nov. 18, 2001, in Baltimore.

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