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 Vs. Steelers

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.

Of the game that assured the Ravens of a division title, Billick said: "I tried not to watch it. 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 pregame 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, who 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, one thing he came over and said was, `Represent our division well,' and that's the same thing that Coach [Bill] Cowher said. It's just football. Once we leave the field, just act like men."

Said Porter, who even mocked Lewis' trademark dance after he made a tackle: "He's not going to back down, and I'm not going to back down. And you have two pit bulls in a little ring that's ready to lock at any time, and that's pretty much how it happened."

Lewis breaks record

Ravens history was made on the first play from scrimmage.

Lewis made his 211th tackle of the season, 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.

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 Browns' win over the Bengals clinched the AFC North title for the Ravens, the Ravens rested linebacker Peter Boulware.

Boulware sprained his knee a week earlier against the Browns and hardly practiced last week.

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.

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. His first sack came on a second-and-16, a play after an Ed Hartwell sack.

Douglas' second sack came on third down on the Steelers' first possession of the fourth quarter, forcing a punt.

"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 in the first half and was temporarily replaced by backup quarterback Kyle Boller.

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

Zastudil was able to hold on a 46-yard field goal by Stover in the fourth quarter and took back the punting duties after that.

End zone

Chris Redman, Ray Walls, Mike Solwold, Boulware, Aubrayo Franklin, Damion Cook, Frank Sanders and John Jones (leg) were the Ravens' inactive players. ... 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. ... Steelers running back Jerome Bettis moved past Jim Brown (12,312 yards) and into sixth place on the all-time career rushing list after a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter. ... The 70,001 fans in attendance was a stadium record. The Ravens sold additional seats in their luxury suites for this game.

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

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