Young secondary helps close victory

After injuries, rookies shut door on Browns in 4th

Ravens 27, Browns 17

Ravens Gameday

December 18, 2006|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Reporter

How young and thin was the Ravens' secondary down the stretch?

With Samari Rolle and Corey Ivy out with injuries, 40 percent of Baltimore's nickel package was absent and Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson peered into a defensive backfield that essentially included three rookies.

Coming out of the two-minute warning, the Browns faced a third-and-31, a situation that cried for six defensive backs. The Ravens stuck with five, as much a nod to the mobility of their linebacking crew as acknowledgment that they were low on bodies in the back.

"We have a lot of talent on this team, a lot of depth," veteran cornerback Chris McAlister said. "The guys who have to fill in know what they're doing."

With all of that inexperience around him, did McAlister feel any extra stress?

"None," McAlister said. "We've started a rookie at safety all year."

Dawan Landry, the Ravens' fifth-round pick in the 2006 draft, looked like a greybeard compared to the guys secondary coach Dennis Thurman had to plug in.

Rolle had his left arm in a sling, sidelined by a stinger. His replacement at cornerback was Evan Oglesby, a second-year player out of Division II North Alabama who spent last season off and on Buffalo's practice roster.

With 12 minutes left, Ivy suffered a concussion. His replacement at nickel back was Ronnie Prude, a rookie who didn't play the previous week at Kansas City.

That makeshift secondary was airtight in the end against Anderson, who went to Ravens training camp last year and returned to Baltimore with 13 straight completions and two touchdown passes.

The Browns had one first down on their last five possessions, however, and none in the fourth quarter. They converted none of their 11 third downs.

"We've had guys going down all year," free safety Ed Reed said, "and other guys step up."

Rolle came down awkwardly on his left shoulder at the end of a 28-yard catch and run by Braylon Edwards. Oglesby came on, and was promptly beaten for a touchdown on a fade route. Anderson picked on him again for Cleveland's second touchdown.

"I knew what they were going to throw on the first play," Oglesby said. "I was down on myself, but Ed and Ray [Lewis], a lot of guys grabbed me at halftime and told me to calm down, play my game. You've got to have a short memory to play corner, and I'm glad they believe in me.

"It's not the first time I had to do that, but it's been a while."

On Sept. 17, two months ago to the day, Oglesby also replaced Rolle, but that was in Week 2, against an Oakland team that had no clue offensively.

Rolle is a nine-year veteran and the Ravens have clinched a playoff berth. Did Oglesby, a special teams regular, go to bed last night thinking that he'll start at Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve?

"No, I'm a role player," Oglesby said. "I know my role. I hope Samari comes back next week. If not, I've got to be prepared."

Landry returned his fourth interception of the season 37 yards, setting up the Ravens' first touchdown. Three plays after Kyle Boller's game-winning bomb, McAlister got his team-high fifth interception. Landry remained down at the whistle, but the coaches didn't have to dwell on his replacement.

"I just got the wind knocked out of me," Landry said.

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