Ravens 20, Jets 17
The Baltimore Ravens swarmed around Matt Stover after he made a 42-yard field goal Sunday afternoon to give them a 20-17 overtime victory over the New York Jets.
They celebrated a rather straightforward -- though exciting -- end to a game that was filled with strange occurrences, from Baltimore backup quarterback Kordell Stewart being used as a punter, to the game turning on Ravens safety Ed Reed's end zone interception of a halfback option pass, to the 77,826 fans inside Giants Stadium booing as Jets kicker Doug Brien made a 20-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime.
And the Ravens celebrated an important win, which pushed their record to 6-3 and kept them on track for a playoff berth. Ten wins seems to be the minimum needed to make the playoffs. Baltimore has a manageable home slate remaining -- four games against teams that started the day with a combined record of 12-21 -- but its final three road opponents are New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, a combined 19-5 heading into Sunday.
The win -- Baltimore's first road victory over a team with a winning record since Nov. 4, 2001 -- was also significant for how the Ravens did it. Kyle Boller, Baltimore's often criticized second-year quarterback, completed 19 of 33 passes for 213 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 97.2. He made several plays on third and fourth downs, and he led Baltimore on a game-winning drive.
The Ravens had to scramble to fill the spots of injured players. Baltimore was already missing two starters (tight end Todd Heap and left tackle Jonathan Ogden) and one key reserve (cornerback Deion Sanders) and they soon lost three other starters. Cornerback Chris McAlister left early in the second quarter with a stinger, punter (and holder on field goals) Dave Zastudil separated his shoulder and left guard Edwin Mulitalo broke his toe. Stewart, who had not played this season, punted for the first time since 1998, when he was with the Steelers, and averaged 35.4 yards on five kicks.
"Kordell Stewart is here for a reason; today was not quite the reason I thought he was here for, but that's what this team is about," Coach Brian Billick said. "When a punter goes down, a cornerback, a tackle -- the next guy had to step up. That was what's so exciting about doing what we did today."
The Ravens took the opening kickoff and put together one of their best drives of the season. They moved 71 yards on 14 plays to the Jets 1-yard line, but running back Jamal Lewis was stuffed by John Abraham on fourth and goal.
That stop seemed even bigger for the Jets (6-3) after running back Curtis Martin (119 yards on 28 carries) scored two touchdowns to give the Jets a 14-0 lead with 3 minutes 43 seconds left in the half. New York's first scoring drive was set up by a fumbled fair catch on a punt by rookie B.J. Sams; the second drive was helped along by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call on linebacker Ray Lewis.
The Jets had a terrific opportunity to deliver a knockout blow at the end of the first half. Quarterback Quincy Carter, who started in place of injured Chad Pennington, connected with Santana Moss on a 47-yard pass that put New York on the Baltimore 17. At that point, Carter had completed all seven of his passes and Martin had rushed for 55 yards and two touchdowns. But the Jets called for a halfback option, and that's when everything changed.
LaMont Jordan's attempt to throw the ball out of the end zone was instead picked off by Reed, the safety's fifth interception of the season. Reed hesitated, then decided to return the ball, weaving between stunned Jets players. He actually took it from end zone to end zone, but the touchdown was called back because of holding.
So Baltimore's offense took over on the New York 36 with 1:33 left. Boller made a big play on fourth down -- rolling right to escape pressure and finding running back Chester Taylor for a 23-yard pass -- and three plays later he hit rookie Clarence Moore for a six-yard touchdown.
"It shifts momentum. It just gave us a break and we got in there, got in the end zone," said Jamal Lewis, who finished with 71 yards on a season-high 30 carries. "Being able to come back and get that touchdown to make it 14-7, that kind of gave us some morale and showed us that we were still in this game."
Jets Coach Herman Edwards said afterward that the play "backfired on us." Jordan, the former Maryland standout, took responsibility.
"I don't want to hear that [offensive coordinator] Paul Hackett called a bad play," Jordan said. "The bottom line is this: We ran the play in practice, and I made all the right decisions. Coach Hackett had all the confidence in me. I wanted to throw the ball away and just didn't get the job done. I didn't throw the ball far enough and that's just it."
The Ravens trailed 14-10 when they took over at their 25 with less than 10 minutes to play.
Again Boller completed a third-down pass to keep the drive alive, and again he found the 6-foot-6 Moore in the end zone, this time for a 16-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead with 4:13 left in regulation.
The Jets put together a 10-play, 52-yard drive that ended with Brien's game-tying field goal with five seconds left. But clock mismanagement at the end of the drive prevented the Jets from possibly going for a touchdown.
Stover wanted the Ravens to lose the overtime coin toss, because he wanted a stiff wind at his back -- not in his face.
He got his wish, and following two three-and-outs by the Jets' offense. Boller led the Ravens to the New York 24, and Stover set up for a 42-yard attempt with 7:35 left in overtime.
"I know he's good from there," Jamal Lewis said of Stover, who is 5 for 5 from 40 to 49 yards this season. "The only thing I didn't know was Kyle holding the snaps. I didn't know how good he was doing that."