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Ravens Overpower Cowboys

Boller's Hot Hand Helps Team Overcome Injuries, Move to 7-3: Ravens 30, Cowboys 10

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2004; Page D11

BALTIMORE, Nov. 21 -- Jamal Lewis spent much of the Baltimore Ravens' 30-10 victory on Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys on the sideline, running and cutting and trying to test out his sprained ankle. The all-pro running back, who was injured nine minutes into the game, told his coaches that he could play if they needed him.

It turned out the Ravens didn't need the services of the 2003 NFL offensive player of the year. Quarterback Kyle Boller made sure of that; he completed 23 of 34 passes (a career-best 67.7 percentage) for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

Baltimore's Chester Taylor soars over the Dallas defense for a touchdown and a 30-3 Ravens lead in the 4th quarter. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

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This was a significant win for Baltimore, which is 7-3 for the first time in franchise history. Yes, the Cowboys are not good; Sunday's loss was their third in a row and their sixth in seven games. But the Ravens once again had to shuffle players because of injuries, and several reserves -- such as Darnell Dinkins, a former practice squad player who caught a touchdown pass, and Chester Taylor, who carried the rushing load as the only healthy running back -- stepped up.

"It's going to come out, we're a 7-3 team, yeah we should beat [the 3-7 Cowboys], but I don't know that I can get you to fully appreciate how big a win that was given our personnel situation right up to game time today," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said. "The way the guys responded, I'm very, very pleased."

The Ravens knew earlier in the week that they were going to have to face the Cowboys without several key players because of injuries: Cornerback Chris McAlister (stinger), cornerback Deion Sanders (foot), tight end Todd Heap (ankle) and punter Dave Zastudil (shoulder) were inactive.

But the Ravens didn't expect to lose starting tight end Terry Jones earlier in the day; he woke up with numbness in his shoulder and was inactive. And they couldn't know they would lose two running backs within five minutes in the first quarter, one in gruesome fashion.

Lewis went down first, limping off after a four-yard gain. He will undergo an MRI on Monday, but he said that he doesn't anticipate missing Sunday's game at New England. Backup Musa Smith suffered a compound fracture of his tibia when he was dragged down from behind by safety Roy Williams following a 12-yard run.

Smith was in obvious pain on the field and a circle of blood appeared on his right sock as trainers tried to stabilize his leg. He was taken to shock trauma, where he was scheduled to undergo surgery.

"I've never seen nothing like that in my life," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "To be standing right there on the sideline, jumping up because I see the play and then see his [leg], it gives you mixed feelings. It's not good."

Dallas led 3-0 at halftime thanks to Billy Cundiff's 19-yard field goal, which was set up by a Travis Taylor fumble deep in Baltimore territory. But the Ravens took the lead for good midway through the third quarter after Boller directed a nine-play, 78-yard drive. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 74 yards; three passes went to Dinkins, including a 17-yard touchdown pass.

"I just think that we need to let Kyle take over this team. It was huge how he performed," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "Other guys performed with him, but when your offense starts to take its identity or when a quarterback gets his confidence, that's huge."

Boller has thrown four touchdown passes in the last two games, after throwing for just three in the first eight games.

Over the past four games, Boller has completed 61.5 percent of his passes (83 for 135), and he's thrown for 810 yards (an average of 202.5 yards per game).

"Each week I feel more comfortable out there," Boller said. "It's getting easier and easier for me."

Dallas quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who spent two years in Baltimore and still holds most of the Ravens' passing records, continued to struggle. He completed only 9 of 22 passes for 109 yards, and finishing with a miserable 18.9 passer rating. Testaverde, 41, was intercepted twice, once by safety Ed Reed and once by safety Chad Williams.

Reed's pick -- his third in three games -- led to Baltimore's second touchdown, a 31-yard pass from Boller to Kevin Johnson. Williams returned his interception 44 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, the fourth time the Ravens have returned an interception for a score this season.

Testaverde left the game after the second interception because of an injured shoulder. Drew Henson, the former Michigan quarterback who returned to football this season after six years in the New York Yankees' farm system, took the field for the first time.

On his first play, Henson faked a handoff, and before he had a chance to turn completely, defensive end Marques Douglas was on his back, knocking the ball loose. Linebacker Terrell Suggs recovered it on the 1, setting up Chester Taylor's one-yard touchdown leap. Baltimore led 30-3 with 9 minutes 46 seconds to play.

But Henson recovered to lead the Cowboys on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a one-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Robinson. Henson was 6 for 6 for 47 yards on the drive.

"It was just one series and we threw [Henson] in there to see what happened," said Dallas Coach Bill Parcells, adding that Henson probably would not have played if Testaverde had stayed healthy.

Ravens Notes: Matt Stover hit a 50-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and is 17 of 18 this season. He has made at least one field goal in every game. . . . With his second catch of the game, Taylor became the Ravens' all-time leading receiver. The five-year veteran has 196 catches, surpassing Qadry Ismail (191 catches from 1999 to '01). . . . Left tackle Jonathan Ogden returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury. . . . The crowd of 69,294 was the second-largest at M&T Bank Stadium.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company