Owens gets 1

Ravens drop 1

His 81-yard TD reception on first play spurs Eagles to 26-17 preseason victory

August 21, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Round 1 of the Ravens vs. Terrell Owens grudge match featured an early knockout.

But it was the Ravens - and not Owens - who were sent reeling.

In the Ravens' 26-17 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last night, Owens delivered the most decisive blow with an 81-yard touchdown catch on his team's first offensive play, stirring emotions that had simmered all offseason.

Five months after Owens successfully fought a trade to the Ravens, the big question at Lincoln Financial Field had been whether the Ravens were going to target Owens for a big hit. After the Eagles' opening series, the Ravens had to be asking themselves how they lost track of him.

Blitzing strong safety Ed Reed left single coverage on Owens, and cornerback Gary Baxter was no match in a footrace with him. Owens sprinted behind the defense, caught the rainbow pass at the Ravens' 45-yard line and outran Baxter and Ray Lewis to the end zone.

"It definitely sets the stage [for the Oct. 31 regular-season meeting]," said Baxter, who was engaged in several shoving matches with Owens the rest of the first half. "I'm not going to lie, I'm a sore loser. He got me. With all the hype with T.O. and Baltimore, they [the emotions] came out. I'm going to be ready next time."

The 81-yarder - Owens' only reception - nearly quadrupled his entire total in his previous meeting with the Ravens last season (23 yards).

As Owens celebrated with his new teammates on one sideline, a visibly upset Lewis had an animated talk with Baxter on the other.

Owens, though, said there is no animosity between him and Lewis, who actively tried to lure the four-time Pro Bowl receiver to the Ravens. But the physical play against him, which included Baxter grabbing his facemask on one play, argued otherwise.

"As far as Ray, we're good friends," said Owens, who had three passes thrown his way. "We talked in between plays. I told him I loved him, and he told me that he loved me back. This is all being blown out of proportion by the media."

For the first time this year, Lewis agreed with Owens.

"Just let it go," Lewis said. "I don't deal with stuff like that. I let everyone want to build up what they want to build up about me and Terrell off the field. I love the guy.

"I wish him the best at everything he does. Like I told him on the field, `God blessed you to be with the Eagles. So do what you do.' "

It marked the only touchdown scored in nine series with Lewis on the field this preseason. Beyond that score and a 62-yard pass to Freddie Mitchell, the Ravens' first-team defense limited the Eagles to 32 yards on 20 plays.

"Preseason is for learning and we'll learn from it," Lewis said. "We are going to be a shut-down defense, but we have to do it all the time."

The Ravens (1-1) got the better of Owens late in the second half, when they capitalized on his decision not to bend his route to the inside.

The pass by Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb sailed inside while Owens stayed outside and fell into the hands of Reed at midfield. Reed returned the interception 27 yards before flipping it to Will Demps, who ran 15 yards into the end zone.

The 42-yard interception return tied the game at 10 with 5:35 left in the second quarter.

"I've seen that play so many times before and I thought they'd be looking for 81 [Owens]," Reed said. "I read the play and the ball was there. I took advantage of the opportunity, and when I couldn't get in, I flipped it to Will."

After the Ravens were penalized for taunting in their touchdown celebration, the Eagles (1-1) answered with an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by J.R. Reed. That 15-yard penalty proved costly because Wade Richey's kickoff landed at the Eagles' 12-yard line (it would have been 3 yards into the end zone without it).

It put Philadelphia ahead 17-10 going into halftime, at which point starters from both teams left the game.

"Big plays can win for you," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They can also beat you."

The Ravens' showdown with Owens took most of the focus away from another inconsistent effort from Kyle Boller. The second-year starting quarterback's uneven performance was reflected in his statistics (10-for-20 passing for 97 yards).

At times, he displayed poise under pressure and showed touch on his throws while moving out of the pocket. Other times, he stared down his receivers and short-armed throws to them.

"He was good and bad," Billick said. "I saw some good things and some stupid things."

On Boller's seven drives in the first half, the Ravens marched into Eagles territory five times and scored 10 points. There were two three-and-outs.

His worst throw came with three minutes left in the second quarter, when he locked onto tight end Daniel Wilcox on the right side. He hesitated but still threw to him down the seam, where he was picked off by Ike Reese.

"That was the same interception he threw in Cleveland last year," Billick said. "So, he's got two behind him now. Hopefully, we won't see that one again."

A couple minutes later, Boller was efficient in a hurry-up situation. He moved the Ravens 48 yards in the last 1:13 of the first half, going 3-for-6 passing for 26 yards and converting three third downs.

But Matt Stover's 48-yard field-goal try fell just short.

"We had some drives but we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times," Boller said. "I'm sure I'll see things on tape that I'll learn from."

Ravens backup quarterback Kordell Stewart might not want to watch the game tape.

Besides a 9-yard touchdown run, Stewart looked out of sync behind a porous second-team offensive line. He was 2-for-8 for 23 yards and often panicked under pressure.

Next for Ravens

Preseason matchup: Detroit Lions (1-0) vs. Ravens (1-1)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Next Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.