Ravens' gains tempered by Ogden's pain

Top lineman questionable for opener, but says sprain in knee ligament is mild

Boller excels

Giants fall, 27-17

Defense caps preseason with another stellar game

`I think we ended great'

September 03, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - On a night when the Ravens finished off the preseason in impeccable fashion - including a near-perfect performance by quarterback Kyle Boller - they still couldn't escape Giants Stadium without a question mark.

The confidence built in last night's 27-17 victory over the New York Giants was taken down a notch by a chilling moment involving Jonathan Ogden.

The Ravens' All-Pro left tackle sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and was labeled as questionable for the Sept. 12 season opener in Cleveland by team orthopedic surgeon Leigh Ann Curl.

Ogden said it was a second-degree sprain, which is considered mild.

"This doesn't feel so bad," said Ogden, whose knee was heavily wrapped. "If it responds well, I'll be back next week."

The injury initially appeared more serious and made the Ravens hold their breath at a time when the starting offense was at its preseason best.

In trying to finish a length-of-the-field drive - one in which Boller had completed passes of 31 and 35 yards - Ogden was leading a sweep to the left side, where he got cut down at the 5-yard line by a defender. He was lying on the ground when players from both teams fell over him as his leg was in the air.

After a tense few minutes for the Ravens, the 6-foot-9, 340-pound Ogden was helped off the field, slowly moving to the sideline with his arms draped around the shoulders of two trainers. His knee was iced for the rest of the game but team officials said X-rays were not scheduled.

"It was very scary," coach Brian Billick said. "Your heart just sinks. You look out there and you just got to pray that things are going to be OK. You know what Jonathan Ogden means to this football team."

Said Ogden: "I was like, `Not the preseason. Please, no.' "

His status will be further evaluated in a couple of days when the swelling goes down.

Ogden, the first player drafted in franchise history, is regarded as the NFL's premier offensive lineman.

He said he had previously suffered MCL sprains in his right knee. One time he returned in one week and the other time took four weeks to recover.

"I responded well the last time," Ogden said, "so we'll just see how it goes."

Outside of Ogden's injury, the Ravens were close to flawless as a team. The starting offense and defense each recorded touchdowns in one quarter of work.

Showing the type of mobility he displayed all game, Boller rolled to his right and connected with Kevin Johnson on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 2:40 left in the first quarter, putting the Ravens ahead 7-3.

Just 1:28 later, cornerback Chris McAlister made up for surrendering a deep pass by picking off Kurt Warner and returning it 23 yards for a score.

"We played fast," Billick said. "We played physical and we had some fun. That's a good way for some of the vets to end the preseason."

It was a well-timed vote of confidence for Boller, who persevered through an up-and-down preseason.

The second-year starter was 6-for-7 passing for 84 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating of 156 was close to perfect (158.3).

"It's always good to end the preseason with a good taste in your mouth," said Boller, who finished the summer 30-for-50 (60 percent) for 330 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

As he has most of the preseason, Boller faced constant pressure. This time, he turned potential sacks into big plays.

On the first play of his second and last series, he had to avoid defensive end Michael Strahan and, with Strahan's hand on him, completed a 34-yard throw to Johnson. Three plays later, Boller sidestepped blitzing cornerback Terry Cousin and dumped a short pass to Chester Taylor that turned into a 35-yard connection.

"He had great presence in there," Billick said. "The scramble and the perfect throw was outstanding. He was the complete package."

As Boller began to establish some footing, the Ravens' defense stood on solid ground, the way it has all preseason.

The starting defense finished with only one touchdown allowed this summer in six quarters.

Last night, the first team allowed just 72 yards, with 49 of them coming on one play.

The first throw toward McAlister - who missed the first three preseason games because of a contract dispute - was one to forget as backup receiver Tim Carter burned him down the right sideline.

McAlister evened the score later in the first quarter when he jumped in front of Amani Toomer on an out pattern, picked off a weak throw by Warner and returned it for a touchdown.

Counting McAlister's runback, the Ravens' defense scored three touchdowns this preseason and gave up just one.

"I think we ended great," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We are ready to go."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns in regular-season opener

Site: Cleveland Browns Stadium

When: Sept. 12, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

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