Third-string quarterback Stoney Case, signed less than two weeks ago, combined with backup wide receiver Billy Davis for a 41-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left tonight that lifted the unbeaten Baltimore Ravens to a 28-24 preseason victory over the Carolina Panthers. Davis took a short pass, broke free and scored easily.
"I was licking my chops [because] they gave us exactly what we hoped for," said Davis, meaning a blitz that the Baltimore offensive linemen picked up and allowed a wide-open slant-in pattern.
Case also led the Ravens to a touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter, hitting Justin Armour for 49 yards during a drive that ended with Jay Graham diving in from two yards. However, Armour was unable to make a tough catch in the end zone on the two-point conversation and the Panthers led 24-22 with 3 minutes 31 seconds left.
"I think we've got a good one in Stoney," Coach Brian Billick said. "That would have tested a guy very familiar with the offense."
Added Case: "I wasn't going to use [his inexperience with the Ravens] as an excuse."
The Panthers put a scare into the crowd on the final play--Steve Bono threw a 51-yard pass to Donald Hayes, who was tackled on the Baltimore 7 as time expired.
The Panthers ran two Baltimore fumbles for touchdowns in gaining an eight-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. Cornerback Doug Evans ran 21 yards with a Priest Holmes fumble on the game's fourth play and defensive tackle Eric England went 58 yards with Case's fumble with 6:19 remaining.
The portion of the game that featured most of the projected Ravens starters included much that frustrated Billick and much that pleased him. Most of the mistakes came early, and included Corey Harris muffing the opening kickoff and two very poor passes by quarterback Scott Mitchell.
However, Mitchell also passed the Ravens into a 7-7 tie. On first down, Mitchell handed off to Holmes. But Holmes quickly turned and tossed the ball back to Mitchell. Qadry Ismail had sped by the Carolina defense and was wide open for an easy catch at about the 13, from where he skipped into the end zone.
Baltimore's defense later caused a fumble that middle linebacker Ray Lewis recovered at the Ravens 4-yard line. Mitchell executed a two-minute drill that ended with Scott Bentley's 39-yard field goal that pulled the Ravens into a 10-10 tie at halftime.
The running game continued to show improvement, with Holmes gaining 31 yards on seven carries and backup Errict Rhett even more effective during two scoring drives in the second half. Carolina gained a 17-16 lead with 9:25 left when backup tight end caught a short pass from Bono on third-and-two from the Baltimore 20 and ran untouched into the end zone.
Ravens Notes: Injured defensive end Michael McCrary, who is trying to negotiate a new contract, did not join his teammates for tonight's game. McCrary (knee) was not scheduled to play, but Billick said through a team spokesman that he "assumed" McCrary would attend the game. McCrary's agent, Michael George, was not immediately available to comment.
The maneuver was not a total surprise, because a source said on Thursday that McCrary might leave the team that afternoon. He did not--and also practiced Friday. Several hours after the Friday workout George said he and the team were "pretty far apart."
McCrary, who has 35 sacks in his last 38 games, wants a contract similar to the one Michael Strahan of the New York Giants recently signed. It included a $12 million signing bonus. McCrary, a Marshall High graduate, said he would test the open market after the season if does not sign contract by the Sept. 12 opener. However, the Ravens have the option to declare McCrary a franchise player for the 2000 season.
CAPTION: Ravens' Tony Siragusa performs a sack dance to celebrate second-quarter takedown of Panthers' quarterback Jeff Lewis.