Ravens' defense makes stand, delivers in OT

Solved by Hasselbeck, unit forces punt leading to FG

NFL Week 12

November 24, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister had total faith he and his fellow defensive players would produce.

When the team needed a defensive stand the most, he proved to be correct.

Luck may have worked against the Ravens in losing the overtime coin toss, but the skill of the defense took over, limiting the Seattle Seahawks to one first down and forcing a punt in the team's 44-41 win yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"There wasn't no doubt anywhere in that huddle or on the sidelines that when the defense went out there, we weren't going to get the job done," McAlister said. "That's all we could do. It's either stop them or you lose."

After forcing the punt, the Ravens marched 55 yards to set up Matt Stover's 42-yard game-winning field goal.

It was an improbable victory in part because there was a stretch starting late in the second quarter through early in the fourth when it was progress if the defense limited Seattle to a field goal: The Seahawks scored touchdowns on five of six possessions during that span.

Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw touchdown passes of 2, 10, 38, 80 and 5 yards. He threw at Corey Fuller, Tom Knight, McAlister, Gary Baxter and anyone else covering receivers Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson and Bobby Engram.

The five touchdown passes were the most given up in Ravens history. Hasselbeck finished 23 of 41 for 333 yards and no interceptions, with 239 of those yards in that disastrous stretch for the defense.

"You got to give Seattle credit, they have a great offense," cornerback Baxter said. " ... But at the same time, we won and who cares what they did? They could have passed for 600, 700 yards ... But we came out with the `W.' "

It had to be, however, surreal for the secondary. The Ravens entered the game third in the NFL against the pass, giving up an average of 170.9 yards.

Things started off typically for the defense, as Hasselbeck finished the first quarter three of nine for 19 yards with one first down on three drives.

After the Ravens tied the game at 3 with a little more than three minutes left in the first half, Hasselbeck struck. He led an 80-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard pass to Jackson over the outstretched hands of Knight.

"I don't know what was happening, but we were ridiculous out there," safety Ed Reed said.

Even McAlister, who had been shutting down some of the league's top receivers the past month, faltered. The lowlight, though, was Hasselbeck's 80-yard touchdown pass to Jackson with five minutes left in the third quarter for a 34-17 lead.

Jackson ran a streak right down the side of the field past Fuller, who did not play much after that. Baxter came over but could not reach Jackson in time.

Fox television announcers said the Ravens benched Fuller, but the veteran cornerback said he was hindered by nagging groin and hamstring injuries. Baxter played cornerback the rest of the game, and Will Demps moved to safety.

"You have to win some ugly games, and this was one of them," Fuller said.

Though Fuller cheered his team from the sideline, he had little to applaud on the Seahawks' next drive, which ended in a 5-yard touchdown to Engram. After that, the Ravens did not allow another point, including a six-play drive that netted just 3 yards in overtime.

"If you go in overtime, it's 0-0, a new game," Baxter said. "Anything that happened in the other quarters, forget about it. ... What we did in overtime was big. ... and that's all that needs to be said about the defense.

"It's been many weeks that it was on us and we had to carry them. That's why they call this game a team sport. One side does bad, and the other side does good, and somebody picks somebody up."

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