In debut, Smith picks up after drop

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Hard hit causes rookie to fumble, but he mixes positive with negative

Ravens 44, 49ers 6

Nfl Week 13

December 01, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The long-awaited debut of Musa Smith at running back produced exactly what it should have yesterday in the Ravens' 44-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium.

As is the case with most rookies, Smith provided both good and bad plays.

The team's third-round pick out of the University of Georgia, who spent much of the preseason out with a knee injury, ran as hard as expected, but rust might have contributed to his fumble on his third carry after a hit by linebacker Saleem Rasheed.

Rasheed rocked Smith at the 49ers' 6-yard line, but receiver Travis Taylor recovered and Smith scored on a 2-yard touchdown run three plays later with a little more than a minute left in the game.

Those were the first live hits Smith has taken at running back since he left Georgia.

"I knew my turn was coming up pretty soon," said Smith, who finished with 10 yards on five carries, with his longest run being 3 yards. "Chester [Taylor] was complaining that his neck hurt. It definitely felt good to put it in the end zone after the fumble. I'll learn from my mistakes."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said Smith withstood his first NFL hits well.

"To get him smacked in the face a couple of times for real is good for him," Billick said.

Taylor, the usual backup, is not expected to miss practice this week.

Caught by surprise

Watching linebacker Adalius Thomas return a kickoff caught his teammates, especially the ones who were supposed to be blocking for him, off guard.

Thomas joked that if he would have had a couple more blocks, his 21-yard runback to start the second half might have turned into something really special.

"Brian [Billick] asked me what happened to the fair catch? In practice, when they kick it to me, I always fair-catch it," said Thomas, whose return set the Ravens up at their 45. "It usually is a high ball, but this one came with some speed. The guys had not really gotten far. So when I got the ball, I just ran and made a couple of guys miss. They were like, `Good job.' "

J. Lewis tops 1,400 yards

Jamal Lewis set a career high in rushing yards for a season with his first carry and, by the end of the day, the bruising back was over 1,400.

Lewis' 1,442-yard total keeps him the league's leading rusher for another week.

"I just put one foot in front of the other and let the yards add up to help win games," said Lewis, who had 78 yards on 19 attempts.

Official suffers concussion

Linebacker Ed Hartwell was one of the first Ravens to greet Ray Lewis after Lewis' interception return for a touchdown late in the first half, and in the process, he accidentally took out an official.

Line judge Carl Johnson was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma with a concussion after Hartwell ran into him near the end zone.

"I saw him fall to the ground, and I was like, `What happened to him,' " Hartwell said. "Then they said that I nicked him. I just want to give out a formal apology. I didn't try and knock him down."

Wright stays positive

Quarterback Anthony Wright immediately shook off his second-quarter fumble that set up a field goal for San Francisco.

Though Wright has fumbled three times in as many games, he refused to let the negative play make him negative. Wright lost control of the ball coming from under center, and 49ers lineman John Engelberger made the recovery at the Ravens' 30.

After San Francisco failed to get a first down, Todd Peterson kicked a 40-yard field goal to cut the Ravens' lead to 7-6.

"At that point, we still had the game under control so there was no need for us to get all bent out of shape about it," Wright said. "But at the same time, we can't continue to make those mistakes.

Stover at 18 straight

One of the heroes of last week's 44-41 comeback win over Seattle, kicker Matt Stover had another standout game, going 3-for-3 on field goals, including two from 40-plus yards.

Stover has made 18 field goals in a row, but the 14-year veteran is still shy of his personal record. Stover made 23 straight in 1994 and '95.

"When you look at the situations this team has been in, it's been nice to be able to come through," Stover said. "It just comes down to making sure we get points every opportunity we get."

Another happy return

Return specialist Lamont Brightful's productivity has been on the rise since he was temporarily benched as a return man in Week 7 in favor of Dedric Ward.

Yesterday, Brightful made another big play, returning a kickoff 75 yards to the San Francisco 19 after the 49ers had cut the Ravens' lead to 7-6. Brightful's return, in which he cut back to the open right side of the field, set up Stover's 28-yard field goal.

"It wasn't as much as a hole, it was just [taking it toward the] sideline," Brightful said. "I just tried to take advantage of what we practiced this week and get us good field position."

R. Lewis fulfills promise

Earlier this season, it was Jamal Lewis who allegedly predicted he would break the NFL's single-game rushing mark before going out against the Browns and doing just that.

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