Last to finish, first to start playoffs

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Billick says, `We'll be ready to go' for Saturday opener

R. Lewis, Porter feud again

Ravens 13, Steelers 10

Nfl Week 17

December 29, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec and Brent Jones | Jeff Zrebiec and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Coach Brian Billick wasted no time in letting his feelings be known about where the Ravens stand on the playoff schedule.

The AFC North champs, whose game last night ended right around midnight, open up the playoffs on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against the Tennessee Titans.

"It's time to move on quickly," Billick said. "We're prepared to be the last game in the regular season and the first game in the postseason because I guess we're Baltimore and that's the way you do it. So we'll be ready to go.

"If I had any brains about me, a kickoff in overtime with the team that has to be the first team to play on Saturday, I should have told my guys to kick it off and let them score. That would've been the smart thing to do, but I am not real smart."

More Billick

Billick was asked if he watched the Cleveland Browns' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals earlier yesterday, which assured the Ravens of a division title.

"I tried not to watch it," Billick said. "I was in my hotel room. My wife and daughters were in the other room and I tried to ignore it, but they kept screaming and yelling and shouting."

Lewis-Porter feud

The feud between linebackers Ray Lewis of the Ravens and Joey Porter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which started earlier this season, escalated during the pre-game coin toss.

Standing only about a yard away from each other, the two engaged in a heated conversation. Lewis said after the game that Porter kept yelling, "Payback!"

Porter, in fact, was charged with the personal foul in overtime that got the Ravens into Matt Stover's field-goal range.

After the game, the two spoke and seemed to clear the air.

"If you don't have the type of emotion that Joey and I have, then the game isn't football," Lewis said. "But after the game, he came over and said, `Represent our division well.'"

Said Porter, who mocked Lewis' trademark dance after he made a tackle: "He's not going to back down, and I'm not going to back down."

Lewis breaks record

Lewis made his 211th tackle of the season on the first play from scrimmage, surpassing his team mark of 210 he set in 1997.

Lewis tackled tight end Jerame Tuman after an 8-yard completion. He finished the first half with five tackles and made nine overall.

Camera-ready

As is usually the case in nationally televised games, safety Ed Reed made a big play.

Reed intercepted Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox midway through the first quarter, jumping a route intended for Hines Ward.

It was Reed's seventh interception of the season, tying a Ravens record held by Rod Woodson (1999). The play also set up the Ravens' first touchdown, a 25-yard Jamal Lewis run two plays later.

Reed also had a jarring hit on receiver Antwaan Randle El on a second-down play shortly before halftime.

Boulware rested

Because the Bengals' loss clinched the AFC North title for the Ravens, the team rested linebacker Peter Boulware, who hardly practiced last week because of a sprained knee.

If he had played, Boulware likely would have been limited to pass-rushing situations. Linebacker Ed Hartwell also was questionable with a chest injury, but he played, leading the Ravens with 12 tackles.

Sack man

With Boulware out, end Marques Douglas picked up the pass-rushing slack, sacking Maddox 2 1/2 times.

The sacks were Douglas' first since the Oct. 12 game at Arizona, and he has 4 1/2 on the season.

"This is an all-time high for a guy like myself who doesn't get that many looks," he said. "I want to make quarterbacks feel like I'm there."

Now punting, Boller

Punter Dave Zastudil suffered a broken nose and concussion in the first half and was temporarily replaced by backup quarterback Kyle Boller.

Zastudil said he was injured when he pushed Randle El out of bounds at Pittsburgh's 48-yard line with 1:29 left in the second quarter.

After confusion leading to a delay-of-game penalty, Boller sent his only punt, a low line drive, 29 yards to the Ravens' 43 in the third quarter.

Zastudil returned to kick a 27-yard punt in the third quarter, but began to feel woozy afterward.

"I never had a concussion before," he said. "I felt spacey and out of it. I didn't know what was going on."

Robinson kicks self

Wide receiver Marcus Robinson caught six passes for 102 yards but wasn't pleased with himself.

Robinson criticized himself for not connecting with quarterback Anthony Weaver on several bombs throughout the game.

"Those long balls, we didn't connect on a single one," he said. "That's not Anthony's fault. But we have to make those plays. ... Good receivers make plays all the time. I want to be that type of receiver."

End zone

The Ravens announced Terrell Suggs and the eight Pro Bowl players during pre-game introductions. ... Casey Rabach started in place of Bennie Anderson (knee) at right guard. ... Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis had 54 rushing yards and moved past Jim Brown (12,312 yards) and into sixth place on the NFL's all-time list with 12,353.

Sun staff writers Jamison Hensley and Edward Lee contributed to this article.

Looking ahead

The Ravens' opponents for the 2004 season:

Home......Away

Cincinnati....Cincinnati

Cleveland....Cleveland

Pittsburgh....Pittsburgh

Buffalo....New England

Miami....N.Y. Jets

Dallas....Philadelphia

N.Y. Giants....Washington

Kansas City....Indianapolis

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