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 1997 Season Review

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  Fortunes Flip for Baltimore

Ravens Helmet By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 1997; Page C6

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 2 Vinny Testaverde had thrown a 16-yard scoring pass on fourth down with three seconds left to lift the Baltimore Ravens into overtime against the New York Jets today. Now, in the middle of the field at Giants Stadium, he had to call heads or tails on the coin flip that almost surely would determine the winner.

"I wanted to call tails," he said. "But I can't win a coin toss to save my life. So I said to myself: '[Since] I always lose, I'll call heads.'"

Hall Celebrates the Game-Winner
John Dunn/AP
The coin came up tails. The Jets then pushed the Ravens 60 yards after the kickoff and into position for the 37-yard field goal by rookie John Hall (at left in photo) that produced a 19-16 victory. Testaverde and the Baltimore players thought they would have ridden that late-touchdown tide to victory had the coin bounced their way.

"I guess this hurts a bit more," Ravens Coach Ted Marchibroda said, "because of what it meant."

A victory would have tipped the Ravens above .500 and given them much-needed credibility, as well as momentum going into a tough road game against AFC Central foe Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Instead, they dropped to 4-5 and lost a chance to stay a game behind Jacksonville in the division. The first-place Steelers (6-2) play the Chiefs at Kansas City Monday night.

The Jets only had 165 yards to Baltimore's 447 during regulation. They also benched their starting quarterback and Glenn Foley came through for the second time in as many games in relief of Neil O'Donnell, completing five passes for 63 yards during the victorious push in overtime.

"That was a battle," a relieved Coach Bill Parcells said after his Jets moved to 6-3, good for first place in the AFC East, on an early touchdown pass by O'Donnell and three other field goals by Hall.

In all, the Ravens penetrated the Jets 20 four times but could get only three field goals by Matt Stover before the final drive of regulation, an 80-yarder in 13 plays with no timeouts. Testaverde beat the Jets mostly by going to tight end Eric Green (four catches for 25 yards) and backup running back Earnest Byner (two catches for 13 yards).

On third and one from the Jets 16 with 14 seconds left, the Ravens caught a break when Byner dropped a short pass. Had he held the ball, the clock would have run out. So there was one more chance.

Wide receiver Derrick Alexander ran an inside-out route and the Jets' defenders bit. Testaverde threw a pass for which a wide-open Alexander stretched and caught in the back left part of the end zone.

But the Ravens were frustrated by an interception that Testaverde threw from his knees, by a fumble by running back Bam Morris, by giving up 117 yards in punt returns to Leon Johnson and by giving up an easy touchdown on the Jets' first play from scrimmage. That came after Johnson glided 60 yards through the Ravens' punt-coverage team to the Baltimore 13.

Vinny Slides for Yardage
AP Photo
Testaverde (pictured) also fumbled the snap from center twice, keeping possession both times. This was the third consecutive game in which he has been unable to handle an exchange with center Wally Williams.

Coming into the game, Baltimore had been confident. "I didn't think we were going to have a lot of problems," defensive end Michael McCrary said after the game. "The offense was really good last week and we were doing our jobs on defense."

The problems started early. On offense, they included blocking and running, even though Morris broke free for 130 yards on 31 carries.

Still, the Ravens trailed 10-9 at halftime. Testaverde's interception came on third and five from the New York 39 midway through the third quarter. He brought the ball forward, fell to his knees and flipped a tight spiral toward the left sideline, thinking Jermaine Lewis would break back for it. Instead, cornerback Otis Smith stepped forward, made the catch and ran 25 yards to the Baltimore 44. Hall later kicked a 33-yard field goal to increase New York's lead to 13-9.

"I saw Vinny fall," said Lewis, who later suffered a sprained right ankle, "and broke off my route, just tried to get open. I didn't know he'd be throwing like that."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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