Amid chaos of comeback, Ravens corner bit of clarity

Ravens 44, Seahawks 41

November 24, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

DON'T WORRY IF you missed it. How were you to know that in the final seven minutes of a game the Ravens had no business winning, they would find a way to win - or several surreal ways?

What on Brian Billick's master motivator earth could have prepared anyone for what the Ravens did yesterday? Even Billick refused to begin cataloging the litany of inspired weirdness that led to the Ravens' greatest regular-season victory.

The thriller that was the Ravens' 44-41 comeback win over the Seahawks yesterday will be talked about forever - or at least until it's time for the playoffs and the Ravens are in.

You can hear it now. You will hear it all the way to January. "Where were you the day the Ravens came back to beat the Seahawks in overtime and turn the season around?"

Things are so different. Just imagine last week and now.

Chris Redman's confidence level? Who cares.

Matt Cavanaugh's play-calling? Who cares.

Billick's trust in Cavanaugh? Who cares.

Billick's future? Don't go there.

Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson free-agent busts? No more.

Anthony Wright's ability to not lose games? With 319 yards and four touchdown passes, he wins 'em.

The defense is fed up with the offense? The defense should vacuum the offense's SUVs.

Shower-Gate? Ha!

"This day was a defining moment for our team. We never stopped believing in each other. It was crazy ... I truly believe in my heart that we just grew up as a family," Ray Lewis said.

If the Ravens were Team Turmoil the previous Sunday after the horrific 9-6 overtime loss in Miami, they're ready to sing Kumbaya and commence a staunch playoff run. They're starting over with a new sense of purpose after what they did yesterday.

Oh, you missed it?

Maybe you were in the car, no longer in the stadium, hoping to beat the traffic and listen to talk-radio rants confirm your suspicions about the Ravens' ineptness.

Maybe you were at the grocery story, having clicked off the TV in a fit of pique. After last week's loss in Miami, maybe you were unwilling to watch a season circling swiftly down the drain.

You had your reasons to give up, even if the Ravens did not, would not.

There was that dismal call - or so it seemed - at the end of the first half. A running play from the Ravens' own 36. Either throw if you're going to gamble on a scoring drive or take a knee. But no, at the moment, it seemed like more evidence that the Ravens could not muster a reply to a high-scoring offense like the Seahawks.

And right on cue, the Ravens fell behind 17-3 at the half because the Ravens play-callers told Wright to hand off to Chester Taylor, only to have the Seahawks strip Taylor and return the ball to the 10, where the Seahawks scored on a touchdown on the very next play.

As the Ravens trudged off to the locker room, boos rained down on the field. It was a harbinger of things to come - or so it seemed.

But in the locker room, words were spoken. Not threats, challenges.

"The way the first half ended gave us a sense of urgency," Wright said. "We knew what we had to do. Each of had to stop looking for someone else to make a play and each of us do it."

In the second half, the Ravens came close to keeping pace with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks. Wright and Robinson put up the kind of numbers everyone had anticipated when the latter signed as a free-agent receiver.

One Robinson touchdown turned into two, two turned into three at the end of the third quarter. But the Ravens were still down 34-24. It seemed equal parts heartening and disheartening to see the Ravens try to keep up with Seattle because for so long, it looked like they were going to play just well enough to lose.

That must help explain the mass exodus from M&T Bank Stadium early in the fourth quarter.

Half the sellout crowd or more stood up and filed out in various states of anger and depression. Hasselbeck had connected with Bobby Engram on a 5-yard touchdown to put the Seahawks up 41-24, giving Hasselbeck 239 yards on six consecutive scoring drives.

Then, on the Ravens' next series, Wright threw an incomplete pass to Todd Heap on third-and-12 and most of the crowd lost its spirit.

But this is where everyone was wrong. Seventeen points, it turns out, was not enough to bring down the Ravens. What happened? The real question is what didn't happen?

Ed Reed blocked a punt and returned the ball 16 yards for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 10 points.

Lewis stood up fullback Mack Strong on the Seahawks' very next possession, ripping the ball for a fumble recovery.

There was a tipped pass on fourth-and-28 that turned into a completion - and salvation - for the Ravens. That led to a fourth Wright-to-Robinson touchdown on the Ravens' ensuing possession.

Then on fourth-and-one, the Ravens stuffed Hasselbeck on a quarterback keeper, giving them the ball on their 33-yard line.

What followed were two Matt Stover field goals, one to tie and one to win.

And with it, the Ravens discovered the most glorious thing an NFL team can discover when they're at the kind of crossroad they were at yesterday with a game and a season on the line.

"We have a renewed confidence in each other. It ain't about the offense. We gave up 41 points. Hopefully the offense has renewed confidence in us," Ray Lewis said.

The Ravens are back in business. They're ready to roll. Too bad the 49ers don't come to town until Sunday.

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