By Mike Preston
September 2, 1996
It's over now, and the Ravens' coming-out party was a huge success. Players hugged in the locker room. Coach Ted Marchibroda got a little teary-eyed. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde was a big hit, and another new slogan and dance were born. On a day when Baltimore brought back some of its football gods to remember its storied NFL past, the Ravens kicked off their inaugural season yesterday with a 19-14 win over the Oakland Raiders.
A frenzied crowd of 64,124, the largest ever for a pro football game in Baltimore, packed Memorial Stadium to watch the city's return to the NFL after a 13-year absence, and see their newest professional team.
Ravens running back Earnest Byner finished off the historical day with a 1-yard touchdown run off left tackle with 7: 50 left to seal the win.
Soon it was time for the players to celebrate as they left the field to a rousing ovation, and telling everyone within hearing distance to climb aboard "the train."
It coincides with Marchibroda's 1996 motto: "Why Not Us?"
"That little dance and the choo-choo motion came from the excitement and energy we were feeding off," said Ravens safety Stevon Moore. "It's the train that is going to lead us to the championship."
No player drew more of an ovation after the game than Testaverde, who pumped his clenched fist in the air as he was leaving the field.
It was Testaverde who led the Ravens' no-huddle offense to three straight scoring drives in the second half, including field goals of 25 and 37 yards from kicker Matt Stover.
On the last touchdown drive alone, Testaverde completed passes of 27 and 25 yards before setting up Byner's touchdown run with a 12-yard run to the Raiders' 5.
Testaverde completed 19 of 33 passes for 254 yards. He also scored the Ravens' first regular-season touchdown on a 9-yard scramble with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Testaverde became a big hit with the fans when he ran over safety Lorenzo Lynch during a 16-yard scramble on the Ravens' last possession of the game.
"It was a great day for Baltimore. . . . We didn't want to disappoint anybody in this city," said Testaverde, who failed to -- live up to expectations in Tampa Bay and Cleveland. "The adrenalin was running early, and we kind of wore ourselves down. We started to run the no-huddle offense, and things clicked for us.
"I don't know the last time a safety bounced off me," said Testaverde, smiling. "But I think we have something to prove, not only to ourselves, but to everyone else in the whole league who have picked us as the worst team in pro football."
Actually, the Ravens didn't exactly look like Super Bowl contenders either, especially in the first half. The Raiders had 189 yards of offense compared with 135 for the Ravens.
And the Raiders also found the Ravens' weak link by picking on cornerback Issac Booth. After Testaverde scored on his first-quarter touchdown run, the Raiders came back with a nine-play, 79-yard scoring drive.
On two plays during the series, Booth was beaten for receptions of 33 and 14 yards. Receiver Tim Brown caught a 7-yard touchdown pass with 11: 01 left in the half to tie the game at 7.
But Booth wasn't the only Raven having a problem. Raiders tight end Rickey Dudley was wide open over the middle for a 30-yard reception, which set up Oakland's next touchdown. Billy Joe Hobert's 10-yarder to Brown with 6: 50 left put the Raiders ahead 14-7 at the half.
"We were having a lot of problems with communication," said Ravens free safety Eric Turner. "We blew some calls because we couldn't hear out there. It's a disadvantage to your defense to play at home because of the noise level."
Ravens cornerback Antonio Langham said: "We came out in the second half knowing we could play better, but we needed to make a play early."
The Ravens couldn't have played much better in the second half. Oakland had only 49 yards of total offense. The Raiders had only three first downs and never crossed midfield. Booth elevated his game, and the Raiders couldn't block Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett, outside linebacker Mike Caldwell or middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
Langham made the Ravens' first big play of the half, intercepting a pass and returning it 28 yards to the Raiders' 25 on Oakland's first series.
But when the Ravens came away without any points, Marchibroda, Mr. Nice Guy, turned a little ugly on the sidelines with his offensive players.
"In other words, he just told us to keep the faith and stop being passive," said Ravens guard Wally Williams. "He told us to keep attacking, that we're a team that plays hard for four quarters."
Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown was more blunt about Marchibroda's rousing speech: "He said, 'Let's go no-huddle and jump their asses.' "
The Ravens went no-huddle, and the Raiders never caught their breaths. Twice they were called for 12 men on the field when players couldn't get to the sidelines before the Ravens snapped the ball.
On the Ravens' first no-huddle series, they went 38 yards on nine plays. A 21-yard pass from Testaverde to Michael Jackson down to the Raiders' 13 set up Stover's 25-yard field goal.
On the Ravens' next possession, they went from their own 26 to the Raiders' 18 before Stover kicked the 37-yarder that cut the Raiders' lead to 14-13 with 1: 17 left in the third period.
The no-huddle was effective for a number of reasons, slowing the Raiders' blitz, confusing their defensive calls and wearing down Oakland's line.
"They did it with poise," said Raiders coach Mike White. "Testaverde took good control with it all the way down to the goal line. Our guys got a little tired. They got us on our heels, and they mixed run and pass."
The confusion lasted long enough for the Ravens to work one more drive, the eight-play, 83-yard series that ended in Byner's touchdown run.
It capped an emotional afternoon, especially for Marchibroda, who coached the Baltimore Colts in the mid- to late-1970s, winning three straight AFC East titles.
"To see some of those old Colts brought tears to my eyes," said Marchibroda. "This was great. To come from behind like that in front of a full house, it probably doesn't get much better than this. It's a shame we have to play 15 more."
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