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Ravens Leave the Browns Blue

 Starks
 Ravens cornerback Duane Starks intercepts a Tim Couch pass in the end zone midway through the second quarter. (AFP)
By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, November 8, 1999; Page D10

CLEVELAND, Nov. 7 – Marc LaMarca has been a Cleveland Browns fan for 35 years. He supported Art Modell throughout the owner's long tenure here but, like many of the Dawg Pound faithful, turned on Modell when he moved the team to Baltimore.

Four years after Modell stole their team and their hearts, the bitterness Browns fans feel toward Modell has not ebbed. That certainly was true after the Ravens' 41-9 victory today on their first visit to Cleveland Browns Stadium.

"This is the only game the whole year I want them to win," said LaMarca, wearing an orange bow tie, orange suspenders, a dangling dog bone earring and an orange hard hat festooned with Browns pins. "They don't have to win another game all season."

For Browns fans suffering through an expansion season, this game was their Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Browns (1-8) continued their dismal play. They managed just 10 first downs and entered the fourth quarter with just 66 total yards. The 41 points were the most points ever scored by a Ravens team.

The result surely pleased Modell, who chose to watch the game on television rather than make the trip to Cleveland.

"He's excited," said Ravens Coach Brian Billick, who talked to Modell after the game. "He felt good we played hard, worked hard and handled ourselves with class."

Too disgusted to watch the Ravens (3-5) beat up on their Browns, many of the 72,898 in attendance left before game's end. The Ravens started quickly, taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession on Errict Rhett's 11-yard touchdown run. From that point on, the Browns never threatened.

"That definitely took away the momentum of the fans, and raised the momentum of our team, and pushed things in our favor," Ravens cornerback Duane Starks said. "I am glad that we got the ball first, because we scored and then put them in a bad field position."

Rhett, who recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, ran 17 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He also notched the longest run of his career, a 52-yard dash for a touchdown.

Ravens quarterback Tony Banks wasn't spectacular, but he didn't make any mistakes, completing 14 of 25 passes with a touchdown.

After Tim Couch's pass was intercepted by Starks in the end zone, Banks took his offense 80 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive with a 28-yard scoring pass to Quadry Ismail. That gave Baltimore a 14-3 lead with 8 minutes 9 seconds left in the first half.

Matt Stover kicked a 28-yard field goal with three seconds left to put the Ravens up 17-3 at halftime.

Couch, whose desperation pass on the final play at New Orleans gave the Browns their first win last week, finished 9 of 21 for 57 yards and was sacked four times. As the clock wound down, the rookie sat dejectedly on the Browns' bench with a towel draped over his head. He was replaced at the start of the fourth by Ty Detmer, who hit Terry Kirby on a five-yard touchdown pass with 5:13 left.

Couch's disappointment was felt throughout the stadium, which was filled with fans rooting for the Ravens to fail. Signs are banned in the stadium, so many fans found other ways to express their sentiments. Several wore T-shirts with messages for Modell. In the Dawg Pound, John "Big Dawg" Thompson, the section's unofficial mascot, had a black bird hanging by a string from his dog bone.

A few Browns fans stayed after the game as the Ravens ran off the field. Reserve fullback Obafemi Ayanbadeyo stopped to chat.

"They said 'You shouldn't be so happy. You're 3-5'" he said. "I said, 'I'll take 3-5. It's a lot better than 1-8' and left."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
 

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