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 1997 Season Review

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  Stover's Kick Secures First Road Win

Ravens Helmet By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 15, 1997; Page D8

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Sept. 14 — Two kicks, one of which went backward, helped lift the Baltimore Ravens to a 24-23 victory over the New York Giants today.

At the start of the game-winning drive, center Leo Goeas accidentally kicked a loose ball into quarterback Vinny Testaverde’s hands and a fumble became an 11-yard gain. At the end, Matt Stover drilled a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left and the Ravens held on for the first road victory and first two-game winning streak in their history.

In addition to the unplanned Goeas-to-Testaverde maneuver, the Ravens were lucky that the Giants’ Brad Daluiso was wide right on two 41-yard field goal attempts. But the Ravens (2-1) also made several flashy plays, among them a diving catch in the back of the end zone by wide receiver Michael Jackson and several completions by Testaverde after he suffered a bruised thumb on his passing hand early in the fourth quarter.

Equally significant was a blocked extra point attempt by defensive end Rob Burnett after the Giants’ first touchdown, leaving the score 7-6. And a tackle by middle linebacker Ray Lewis — his 21st of the game — behind the line of scrimmage on third down forced the Giants to try the second field goal attempt that Daluiso missed.

Had Deluiso been successful, the Giants (1-2) would have taken a five-point lead with less than three minutes left and forced the Ravens to score a touchdown to win. Instead, Coach Ted Marchibroda had the luxury of putting the ball into position for Stover and then allowing lots of critical seconds to run off the clock.

Stover is the all-time NFL leader in field goal accuracy but missed twice in potential game-winning situations last season. He was 5 of 5 this season before today and correctly judged a tricky cross-wind on his game-winner. "I was lucky this was September and not December," he said, referring to the often nasty winter conditions at Giants Stadium.

The Giants had more passing and running yards than the Ravens. They held the ball almost 12 more minutes and forced the game’s only turnover, an interception thrown by Testaverde. "We blew it," said Giants linebacker Corey Miller.

Indeed, Marchibroda admitted: "For 2˝ quarters, we didn’t do anything."

He was referring to the Ravens gaining an eight-point lead, 14-6, early in the second quarter — on a 22-yard pass from Testaverde to wide receiver Derrick Alexander and about a four-inch dive on fourth down by running back Jay Graham — and then being dominated until the late going.

Running backs Tiki Barber (16 carries, 64 yards) and Tyrone Wheatley each scored on a one-yard run for the Giants and quarterback Dave Brown completed 28 of 46 passes for 269 yards. Brown’s one-yard flip to fullback Charles Way and Deluiso’s 27-yard field goal, after linebacker Ray Lewis knocked down a pass headed for an open receiver in the end zone, gave the Giants a 23-14 lead with 12 minutes 22 seconds left in the game.

Two minutes later, it was uncertain whether Testaverde would be able to play. He sat on the bench while backup Eric Zeier warmed up and put on his helmet. A Giants defender had been blocked into Testaverde and caused the thumb to go numb. But most of the feeling returned to the thumb — and Testaverde returned to action.

"I was able to grip the football," he said. "It hurt. It also hurt to shake hands, but the pain was not overbearing. You grit your teeth and go with it."

Twice on third down during what would prove to be an 83-yard drive, Testaverde completed short-range passes for first downs. He also floated a pass over the middle to tight end Eric Green for 34 yards — and soon benefited from Jackson’s catch from the 11 for the touchdown that brought Baltimore to within 23-21.

On the play after Daluiso missed his second 41-yarder with 2:59 left, Giants fans were heartened by Testaverde backing away from center without the ball. But Goeas, retreating in his pass-protection stance, happened to kick it. Testaverde grabbed it and ran 11 yards for a first down.

A run by Earnest Byner and passes to Alexander and Green gave Stover his chance — and he said: "I really laid into it."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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