Ravens show improvement in second season

Offensive team turns focus on defense, drafts Boulware

1997 season


August 02, 2005|By Steve DeClue | Steve DeClue,Special to baltimoresun.com

The Ravens entered their second season in Baltimore with a potent offense and a defense that couldn't stop anyone. But the team hoped an improved defense would lead to progress in the standings.

Linebacker Peter Boulware was selected as the Ravens first pick in the draft, another sign that the team was focused on addressing its defensive problems

The concentration on defense seemed to work. After losing the season opener by one point to Jacksonville, 28-27, the Ravens strung together three consecutive victories, capped by a 36-10 victory in Tennessee.

The season quickly unraveled as the Ravens won only one of their next nine games (including one tie). Of the seven losses, five of those games were decided by 4 points or fewer. One bright spot was a victory in the Battle of the Beltway, a 20-17 win at Washington. The low point came in a 37-0 loss at Pittsburgh, the first time the Ravens had ever been shut out.

The team finished the season strong by winning two of its final three games, including the second of the season over Tennessee in the Ravens final game at Memorial Stadium. The Ravens lost their season finale at Cincinnati, 16-14, to finish 6-9-1.

For the second straight year, the Ravens were led by their passing attack. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw 18 touchdown passes, 13 of which were to receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander. Alexander finished the season by topping the 1,000-yard receiving mark while Jackson was close behind with 918 yards.

Running back Bam Morris saw the majority of the carries for the second straight year, ending the season with 774 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The Ravens hoped Morris' legal problems were behind him and he could be the running back of the future. He was suspended in 1996 and again in 1997 for violating the league's substance abuse policy and was eventually released in January of 1998.

The defense improved, but not significantly. Linebacker Ray Lewis had a huge season, recording 210 tackles. Boulware made an immediate impact and became the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with 11.5 sacks, fourth most by a rookie in league history.

Still, the slight improvements were not noticeable in the final result, a second consecutive season in the cellar of the AFC Central division. The Ravens hoped moving into a new stadium for the 1998 season would lead to a winning attitude.

Season Highlights

*OT Jonathan Ogden and LB Ray Lewis were selected to the Pro Bowl.

*The Ravens and Western Maryland College entered a 5-year agreement to hold training camp at the campus.

*S Stevon Moore led the team with four interceptions.

*CB Antonio Langham had a 40-yard interception return for touchdown in a two-point loss at Jacksonville.

*KR/WR Jermaine Lewis returned two punts for touchdowns in a 31-24 victory over Seattle.

*K Matt Stover kicked five field goals in a 36-10 victory over Tennessee.

*The Ravens recorded a safety in a 42-34 loss to Pittsburgh when Steelers punter Josh Miller ran out of the back of the end zone.

*WR Michael Jackson had 143 yards receiving in the season-opening loss to Jacksonville.

*RB Bam Morris rushed for 130 yards in a 19-16 OT loss to the New York Jets.

The Year in the NFL

*The Denver Broncos stunned the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24.

*The St. Louis Rams selected Ohio State T Orlando Pace with the first overall pick in the draft.

*Detroit running back Barry Sanders was named Player of the Year after rushing for more than 2,000 yards.

*Green Bay, San Francisco and Kansas City finished tied for the best record in the league (13-3).

*Cincinnati Bengals QB Boomer Esiason finished the year as the league's top-rated passer.

*Minnesota Vikings WR Cris Carter led the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions.

*The Indianapolis Colts finished 3-13, worst in the NFL.

*Vikings DE John Randle led the NFL with 15.5 sacks.

* Oakland Raiders WR Tim Brown led all wideouts with more than 1,400 yards receiving.

The Year in the World

*Princess Diana of Wales was killed when her black Mercedes crashed at high speed in a tunnel in Paris.

*Two unmanned spacecraft landed on Mars, sending back photos of the planet's surface.

*Timothy McVeigh was found guilty of the Oklahoma City bombing and sentenced to death.

*Scottish scientists announced they had successfully cloned the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly.

*Singer and songwriter John Denver died when the plane he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay in California.

*Mother Teresa died of a heart attack at age 87.

*Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield in the ear and was disqualified in the third round of the fight by referee Mills Lane.

*Tiger Woods shot a tournament record 18-under-par to win his first Masters at age 21.

*For the fifth time in seven seasons, the Chicago Bulls were NBA champions.

*Rap artist Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a Los Angeles drive-by shooting.

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