Art Modell, who owned the Cleveland Browns for 35 years before moving them to Baltimore after the 1995 season, watched as his Ravens defeated the expansion Cleveland Browns, 17-10, today at PSINet Stadium.
The Ravens' first win of the season did not come as easily as expected against the Browns (0-3). Although Baltimore (1-2) took an early lead, it struggled to stay ahead of Cleveland throughout the game. Nonetheless, there were bright spots.
"That's great for Art," said Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware, who had five tackles. "I'm happy for that, just because I know this was pretty big for him. And it's good to get a win, especially against Cleveland."
Quarterback Stoney Case, making his first start for the Ravens and just the second in his career, rushed 11 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns but completed just 12 of 25 passes for 165 yards with three interceptions.
"I just tried to force some things," Case said. "I'm always wanting to make plays. . . . I've got to do a better job of making decisions."
Case, who replaced an ineffective Scott Mitchell as the starting quarterback, threw mostly to his tight ends and running backs. Wide receiver Justin Armour caught one pass for 16 yards, but running back Errict Rhett was the Ravens' leading receiver with three catches for 27 yards.
"He's firing up the offense in the huddle," Armour said. "It's fun having him in there. We're going to . . . [have] to let him make some mistakes and grow."
Case's first drive as a starter ended quickly when the Ravens were forced to punt after three plays. His second drive led to a 44-yard field goal by Matt Stover to give Baltimore its first lead of the season, 3-0.
Rhett, who has started the past two games in place of the injured Priest Holmes, enjoyed his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He carried the ball 22 times for 113 yards. His explosive running style has been a plus for a Ravens offense that has struggled at times this season.
The defense had another strong game. Boulware set up Baltimore's first touchdown when he sacked Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch and forced him to fumble. Defensive end Michael McCrary recovered the ball on the Browns 1-yard line. Two plays later, Case ran the ball into the end zone to give Baltimore a 10-0 lead 4 minutes 29 seconds into the second quarter.
Boulware, who has been hampered this season by a shoulder injury, had a productive game. He sacked Couch twice in addition to his five tackles.
"It felt good, really good to let me know I can go out there and even with a bum shoulder I can be effective," Boulware said.
Jamie Sharper, a third-year linebacker out of Virginia, also played well. He led the team with 10 tackles.
"James is capable of being a big play player," Boulware said. "That's what people are expecting of our defense. Not for [middle linebacker] Ray [Lewis] to make all the plays, but me and James to step up and start making big plays."
Special teams continued to have their problems. As was the case last week, the unit failed to put 11 players on the field at times. Special teams player Billy Davis said the confusion stems from players not knowing which unit--defense or special teams--needs to be on the field in certain situations.
Regardless, Ravens Coach Brian Billick, who earned his first victory as an NFL head coach, was pleased with the outcome.
"This was a good solid win for us," Billick said. "[We made] our share of mistakes that need to be corrected. . . . Obviously, I'm thrilled to death with the win. It was a good, hard-fought win. I don't [care] who the win is against."