Ravens Can't Enjoy San Diego Trip
By Ken Denlinger
SAN DIEGO, Nov. 15 The Baltimore Ravens moved down in class from most of their season-long competition today, but the result was the same. The San Diego Chargers used a 47-yard pass by Craig Whelihan and a three-yard run by Terrell Fletcher for their touchdowns and a trip by punter Darren Bennett on Baltimore's Jermaine Lewis preserved the 14-13 victory.
The Ravens' scoring came on a 58-yard pass from quarterback Jim Harbaugh to Lewis on and two field goals by Matt Stover. Whelihan, subbing for Ryan Leaf, got his first victory in eight career starts and the Chargers improved to 4-6. Baltimore fell to 3-7.
With about six minutes left, Lewis fielded a punt on Baltimore's 10 and broke through the first waves of tacklers. All that remained was Bennett at the 40. He stuck out his foot, and Lewis tumbled several yards before recovering and running the rest of the way into the end zone.
An official initially signaled a touchdown that would have given Baltimore the lead. After a conference, however, the Chargers were assessed a 10-yard penalty and the Ravens took possession at the San Diego 45. Referee Gerry Austin explained that the tripping caused Lewis to be downed by contact, and the Ravens had to settle for Stover's 42-yard field goal.
Lewis insisted afterward that Bennett's foot never touched him, that his momentum caused him to hit the ground.
"Somebody [who saw] the replay tells me he didn't," Chargers Coach June Jones said of the question of whether Bennett's foot had touched Lewis. "But he did, because they called it."
The Chargers' second touchdown was controversial, because it came after the Ravens twice were called for rare vaulting-over-a-teammate penalties. The Chargers accepted the penalties and took field goals off the scoreboard, finally ending the drive with Fletcher's run.
The early going was what could be expected from a pair of 3-6 teams with poor offenses. There were only three first downs in the opening 14 minutes. On the five punts during the initial period, three drew penalties. The only forward pass of any consequence during that time was when Marc proposed to Tonya on the scoreboard and she accepted.
Baltimore did gain a 3-0 advantage early in the second quarter. Stover's 42-yard field goal ended a drive that started just inside the San Diego after Lewis returned a short punt six yards. Harbaugh's 10-yard pass to tight end Eric Green and two offside penalties on defensive linemen were the major gainers for the Ravens.
Whelihan was erratic early on, missing receivers high and low. He also was pressured quite a lot and once was sacked for a 19-yard loss when he tried to elude defensive end Rob Burnett and found linebacker Peter Boulware directly in his escape route.
Such inefficiency turned an enthusiastic crowd surly. But the boos quickly turned to cheers with 3 minutes 4 seconds left in the second quarter. Wideout Charlie Jones burst by rookie cornerback Duane Starks down the right sideline, and Whelihan led him perfectly for a 47-yard touchdown that lifted the Chargers into a 7-3 lead.
The series was set up by Bennett punting the ball out of bounds on the Baltimore 10 and San Diego's defense forcing Kyle Richardson to punt from his end zone. Latario Rachal returned Richardson's effort nine yards and the Whelihan-to-Jones play followed almost immediately.
Baltimore safety Corey Harris was unable to offer Starks any help, and the very open Jones made the fingertip catch inside the Ravens' 15.
Whelihan had been getting increasingly good protection for a series or so. On the other hand, Harbaugh was rushed hard from about late in the first quarter.
He fumbled twice when hit, with the Ravens recovering each time, and was intercepted midway through the second quarter by cornerback Terrance Shaw when his quick slant-in to Lewis on fourth and six from the San Diego 38 was slightly underthrown.
Each team went to backup running backs. The Chargers used Terrell Fletcher when Natrone Means suffered a broken right foot on the first play of the second half. The Ravens benched Priest Holmes in favor of Errict Rhett at halftime.
Midway through the second half, Harbaugh and Lewis teamed up with a 58-yard play that allowed the Ravens to take a 10-7 lead. The play came after a short punt that followed Baltimore forcing a three-and-out series for the second straight time.
Lewis ran straight down the sideline, then hesitated as Harbaugh offered a pump fake that caused Shaw to pause. Lewis put on a burst of speed and grabbed the ball in stride a step or so past Shaw at about the 15.
Including punt returns, it was Lewis's sixth touchdown of more than 50 yards this season.
The Chargers struck back right away and took a 14-10 lead on Fletcher's three-yard run with 14:47 left. Twice during the 69-yard drive, the Ravens were penalized for using a teammate to vault into position to block field goals of 44 and 24 yards by John Carney. Each time, the penalty gave the Chargers a first down and the second one put them in position for Fletcher's run around right end.
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