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Jets 19, Ravens 16

Game 9: Ravens get OT, can't cash in

Alexander's TD catch at 0:03 ties game, but Hall boots N.Y. to win; defeat is 4th in 5 games; domination in stats wasted by mistakes

By Mike Preston

Sun reporter

November 3, 1997

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.

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Ravens running back Bam Morris rushed for 130 yards and quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw for 288. The Ravens racked up 447 yards of total offense and held the opposition to 225. The New York Jets benched their starting quarterback and were 4-for-15 on third-down conversions. And the Ravens lost.

Final score: Jets 19, Ravens 16 in overtime before a rain-drenched crowd of 59,524 at Giants Stadium.

The Jets' John Hall kicked a 37-yard field goal 4 minutes, 58 seconds into the overtime to lift New York (6-3) to victory and give the Ravens (4-5) their fourth loss in the past five games.

Hall's kick ruined a fourth-quarter rally by the Ravens, who had tied it at 16 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Testaverde to receiver Derrick Alexander in the left corner of the end zone with three seconds left in regulation.

But the Ravens lost the coin toss and then couldn't stop the Jets on a 60-yard, 12-play drive in overtime.

"I just tried to keep my head down and follow through," Hall said of his winning kick.

After the ball went through the uprights, he said, "I just lost my mind."

Some of the Ravens were at a loss for words, but not reserve safety and special teams ace Bennie Thompson.

"We stunk up the joint, myself included," Thompson said. "There is no way they outplayed us today."

Despite dominating the yardage totals, the Ravens didn't win because they committed two critical turnovers and scored just 13 points on four possessions inside the Jets' 20-yard line.

Their special teams play also was horrendous and the defense couldn't stop the Jets in overtime.

Now the Ravens must face the defending AFC Central champion Steelers next Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

"It's disappointing to come back like we did," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "You think you have the momentum going and you end up losing a ballgame. It's a tough loss for the players, it's a tough loss for the organization, it's a tough loss for the coaches. We could have been 5-4 at this point, right in the thick of things."

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown said: "Look at all the yardage. Look at the stats. We kept coughing it up. We keep killing ourselves. We talked about not doing it all week and we did it again."

The Ravens' failures started early. They didn't convert on three third-and-one situations on their first three possessions, then had to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Matt Stover to pull within 7-3 with 6: 41 left in the first quarter.

Then there was the third-and-two at the Jets' 4 with 1: 07 left in the first half and the Ravens trailing 10-6. Morris ran off left tackle but lost 2 yards, and Stover had to kick a 24-yard field goal.

"They had their linebackers playing up tight and we knew that was the case," Morris said. "We had some problems early, but we got them straightened out."

Not exactly.

The Ravens didn't convert on fourth-and-two at the Jets' 13 with 6: 21 left in the game. Marchibroda decided not to go for a field goal, but Alexander slipped on a short hitch pattern, and the pass from Testaverde fell incomplete.

But the game's biggest play may have been Testaverde's interception on the Ravens' second possession of the third quarter. On third-and-five from the Jets' 39, Testaverde dropped back to pass and slipped, but he still threw a pass from his knees intended for slot receiver Jermaine Lewis.

The ball, however, was intercepted by cornerback Otis Smith, who returned it to the Ravens' 44. Six plays later, Hall kicked a 33-yard field goal to put the Jets ahead 13-9.

After his interception, Testaverde went over to talk with Lewis, who didn't come back on the ball or make an attempt to break up the pass. Testaverde, though, shouldn't have thrown the pass in the first place.

"Jermaine Lewis had an out pattern and when I threw it, I thought he was looking at the ball. He stayed inside and the cornerback stayed outside," Testaverde said. "If I had to do it over again, I probably would have taken the sack where I was."

Lewis, who has had a number of breakdowns in the past two games, said: "I had an out route. Once I saw him scramble, I was just trying to help him out. I didn't think he was going to throw it. He asked me, 'Where did you go?' "

Marchibroda seemed to side with Testaverde.

"It's only a bad play when it's an interception. I think he expected Jermaine to break out and instead he broke upfield," Marchibroda said.

Testaverde had two fumbles yesterday and now has eight in the past four games. But it was Morris who had the other big turnover, fumbling after an 8-yard gain at the Jets' 48.

The ball popped into the hands of Smith, who returned it 40 yards to the Ravens' 14 with 12: 37 left in the game. The Jets converted the turnover into a 31-yard field goal from Hall and a 16-9 lead.

"I don't know what happened on the play," Morris said. "I think when I made the spin move, somebody hit me or grabbed my arm. I'll have to take a look at the film and see what happened."

It was just another give-away by the Ravens, who started playing ugly early by giving up a 60-yard punt return to Leon Johnson after the Ravens' first possession. The Ravens had three players in position to tackle Johnson after his catch, but none of them was under control.

After getting by those three defenders and breaking through the middle, Johnson ran to the Ravens' 13 before he was tackled by Donny Brady.

On the Jets' next play, quarterback Neil O'Donnell threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open tight end Fred Baxter in the right flat for a touchdown as strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware blew the coverage.

"That was my guy," Boulware said. "I thought I was supposed to get help from the inside. I didn't get it and he went outside."

The special teams were flat all day. The Jets had 160 kickoff and punt return yards, including 117 on punt returns. Lewis had trouble fielding kickoff returns and there were botched snaps, holding penalties and punts that were nearly blocked.

"Special teams lost this game," Thompson said. "Penalties, me holding. We were absolutely terrible and we've got a lot to work on."

For most of the day, the Ravens' defense had played well. Jets running back Adrian Murrell was held to 42 yards rushing and O'Donnell was 12 of 20 for 96 yards before being replaced by Glenn Foley.

But in the overtime, once it stopped raining, Foley beat up on the Ravens' secondary. He completed passes of 11, 14, 21, 9 and 8 yards as the Ravens' cornerbacks gave too much cushion.

"He had some easy throws to make. I'm not so sure he had a lot of tough throws to make," Marchibroda said of the lack of pressure and wide-open receivers.

Ravens cornerback Antonio Langham said: "People keep saying the coverage is soft, but that's not always the case. Certain formations and plays dictate certain coverage. Let's also give the Jets some credit."

"We prepared for Foley the same way we prepared for O'Donnell," said Ravens cornerback Eugene Daniel. "We knew there was a possibility Foley might get in the game. He came in and just got the job done."