Ravens Defense Makes Difference
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 1998; Page C10
BALTIMORE, Nov. 8 Week after week the Baltimore Ravens have tried to convince their increasingly angry fans and perhaps themselves that they could beat a good team. They finally did it today, combining a defensive effort that included cornerback Rod Woodson scoring their only touchdown with a wee bit of luck for a 13-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Woodson's 18-yard interception return late in the first quarter and 30-yard field goals by Matt Stover in the second and fourth quarters provided just enough points for the Ravens (3-6) to snap a four-game losing streak.
Right end Michael McCrary's four sacks for 35 yards in losses and middle linebacker Ray Lewis's 11 tackles were at least as important in what Coach Ted Marchibroda called "a game the defense had to win for us."
The game ended with rookie cornerback Duane Starks, who had an otherwise humbling experience in his first NFL start, intercepting a desperate Oakland pass from the Baltimore 40 in the end zone. The Raiders (6-3), who had won five straight, never led but pulled into a 10-10 tie on a short pass by backup quarterback Donald Hollas early in the fourth quarter before Stover put Baltimore ahead for good with 9 minutes 14 seconds left.
"This is a good team, but it needs to believe in itself," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh. "We still have a long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction."
Baltimore's luck came midway through the second quarter, on second and goal for the Raiders with only a few inches necessary for a touchdown. Backup Hollas, who came into the game when starter Jeff George re-injured his groin, tried a sneak and seemed to extend the ball over the goal line before being pushed back and fumbling.
Running back Harvey Williams gathered the ball and soon was tackled inside the one. Replays indicated the Raiders should have been given a touchdown. The officials ruled otherwise and after Lewis nailed Hollas for a loss on third down, Greg Davis kicked a 23-yard field goal.
The Raiders also were hampered by 14 penalties for 98 yards. Center Barret Robbins was ejected late in the first quarter for kicking a Raven and defensive linemen James Harris and Grady Jackson each was flagged for roughing Harbaugh.
"I think some of my best plays were the one I took on the jaw that got a 15-yard penalty [and] the one I took on the knee that got a 15-yard penalty," said Harbaugh, smiling and adding. "And the interception set up Woodson's touchdown."
That was Ravens' only turnover and it came off a tipped pass that cornerback Eric Allen caught and returned two yards to the Oakland 8. Hollas entered the game for the first time and his initial pass ended with Woodson stepping in front of wide receiver Tim Brown and making the catch.
Woodson said he "wasn't supposed to be there." But linebacker Jamie Sharper foiled Hollas's first option and strong safety Stevon Moore cut was able to cut Brown's route short. And when Hollas threw the ball slightly behind Brown, Woodson had his fifth interception of the season. When Lewis bumped Hollas out of the way inside the 5, Woodson had the second interception touchdown of the season and seventh of his career.
When Woodson was asked about a Ravens' offense that had the ball inside the Oakland 10-yard line three times but could muster just two field goals, he snapped: "It's not illegal to have the defense score."
In defense of the Baltimore offense, it did have a slight advantage in time of possession. But the McCrary-led defenders were magnificent and what they did on the final Oakland drive was as good as any to highlight.
Marchibroda had ordered a run on third and long from the Oakland 40 that forced the Raiders to use their last timeout with 1:54 left. And when Kyle Richardson's punt sailed into the end zone on the fly, the defense had to keep the Raiders out of field goal range.
Hollas threw two completions, but they cost the Raiders 40 seconds. Then McCrary got enough of Hollas's ankle to get a 10-yard sack. Two more completions moved the ball to the Baltimore 40, but only eight seconds remained.
The Raiders seemed to try to entice the Ravens into having the wrong players on the field by sending the field goal unit out to try what would have been about a 58-yard effort, then calling them off and inserting the offense. But Starks saved the day.
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