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Ravens Tighten Up Titans

 Rod Woodson
 Rod Woodson, above, tied an NFL record in the 4th quarter by returning an interception for a touchdown for the ninth time. (Joe Giza - Reuters)
By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 6, 1999; Page D10

BALTIMORE, Dec. 5 – The Baltimore Ravens hadn't beaten a team with a winning record all season and had failed to put away opponents with decisive victories. Going into today's game with the 9-2 Tennessee Titans, this didn't look to be the contest to reverse either trend. But the Ravens put together their best all-around effort of the season to shock the Titans, 41-14, before 67,854 fans at PSINet Stadium.

"We're understanding that we've got a good football team," cornerback Rod Woodson said. "We can play with anybody. We've got to be more consistent throughout four quarters to do that. I think today we played the best game all around, in all aspects of the game."

Baltimore (5-7), which never trailed after the first quarter, grabbed the lead on Patrick Johnson's 76-yard touchdown catch and held on to it. Woodson's 47-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the Ravens' victory over Tennessee (9-3) with 4 minutes 12 seconds remaining in the game. It was his ninth interception return for a score, which ties him with former Washington Redskin Ken Houston for the NFL record.

Quarterback Tony Banks had his most productive afternoon as a Raven, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 18 of 31 passes for the fourth 300-yard passing game of his career and his first four-touchdown game.

"I've had some more yardage [in the past], but it's been in a couple losses," Banks said. "So to me, I'd have to say this is my biggest win, especially against a team like [Tennessee]."

Banks was not the only one who excelled on this day. Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, who had been mired in a season-long slump, caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns. He also was effective on punt returns. His longest, a 28-yard return, gave Baltimore the ball on the Titans 36-yard line and led to Justin Armour's one-yard touchdown pass that put the Ravens ahead 24-14 in the third quarter.

"On that first punt return, I started making moves," Lewis said. "I said, 'Today's going to be my day.'"

Running back Priest Holmes, who had lost his starting job to Errict Rhett early in the season, became the Ravens' first 100-yard rusher this season after coming in for Rhett, who left the game when he injured his ribs on a pass play in the second quarter. Among Holmes's nine carries was a 72-yard run that set up a field goal by Matt Stover that put Baltimore ahead 17-11.

Titans quarterback Steve McNair was 28 for 48 for 288 yards with two interceptions as Tennessee lost for only the second time in eight games.

Against Tennessee, Baltimore did what it was unable to do against Jacksonville in a 30-23 loss last week. It made the plays it needed to make to win the game.

On the Ravens' third offensive series of the game, Banks started from Baltimore's 24-yard line. On the first play, he lofted a pass that Johnson reached over cornerback Denard Walker and safety Marcus Robinson to bring down at the Tennessee 40. From there, Johnson hobbled down the right sideline to the end zone. Johnson, who had injured his right calf during pregame warm-ups, left the game after that play.

"I knew I was hurt," Johnson said. "I was like, 'Man just don't let me get caught.' But nobody was there."

That touchdown put Baltimore ahead 7-3 and began the Ravens' offensive surge.

Baltimore began building its lead in the second quarter when Lewis caught his first touchdown pass of the season. He froze Walker to catch a six-yard pass from Banks with 11 minutes 42 seconds before halftime.

Lewis also set up the Ravens' third touchdown in the third quarter by drawing a pass interference call on safety Blaine Bishop, on second and 15 from the Tennessee 41. Banks's pass to Lewis in the left corner of the end zone fell incomplete but the pass interference call put Baltimore on the 1, and three plays later, Armour out-leaped Bishop for a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone for a 24-14 lead.

After a 27-yard field goal by Matt Stover with 9:14 to play, the Ravens increased their lead to 34-14 on Lewis's second touchdown reception. On third and 10 from the Tennessee 40, Lewis slipped by Walker and was so wide open he started frantically waving his arms. Banks spotted him and sent the ball to the receiver for Banks's career-best fourth touchdown pass of the game.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
 

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