In one corner of the Ravens' locker room, 325-pound defensive tackle Tony Siragusa was doing his little victory dance. In another area, defensive tackle Larry Webster was talking about some of the negative publicity the team had gotten in the past three weeks. And then there was rookie outside linebacker Peter Boulware, hoping that the team's latest victory had captured the hearts of Baltimore and possibly created a major turnaround.
In an ugly and bizarre contest dominated by Bam Morris' career-best, 176-yard rushing effort, the Ravens defeated an old Baltimore rival in the Washington Redskins, 20-17, yesterday before an announced crowd of 75,067 (and several thousand unannounced no-shows) at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.
The Ravens (4-4) were not overly impressive in the win, but this one was for Baltimore. A year ago, the Ravens had lost their other mission game, 26-21, to the Indianapolis Colts, the team that left Baltimore nearly 14 years ago. But this time, the Ravens exacted some revenge, beating the city's second-most-hated team.
So what if Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde fumbled three times, including two that almost cost the team the game? So what if the Ravens' secondary and kickoff teams gave up a couple of big plays? And so what if they barely won, despite a better-than-10-minute advantage in time of possession?
What was important was that the Ravens broke a three-game losing streak and gave the Redskins (4-4) their first loss in their brand-new house. They also left Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte in a lot of pain and crying on the sideline as the game ended.
"Baltimore was looking for this one," Boulware said. "That's what makes it so special. Now that we've got some momentum, maybe we can build on it and get things started."
Siragusa said: "If the Redskins say it's not a rivalry, that's their prerogative. But I know what the people in Baltimore and Maryland think, and it's nice to win the in-house rivalry."
The game closed on a strange play. Reserve safety Bennie Thompson, who has the worst hands of any of the Ravens' defensive backs and is the team's last choice to play in the secondary, deflected Frerotte's pass and linebacker Ray Lewis intercepted it to kill the Redskins' last possession at the Washington 42 with 46 seconds left.
Thompson never saw the pass.
"I think Rondell Jones [starting safety] got hurt, and they told me to go in. You know I prepare like I'm the backup quarterback," Thompson said with a wink. "I saw Frerotte throw the ball to tight end Jamie Asher, so I just broke to make the tackle, and before I could see it, the ball hit me in the shoulder.
"But the play didn't work as Ray and I planned," said Thompson, laughing. "Ray was supposed to intercept the ball, I was supposed to block the quarterback and he was supposed to use his blazing speed to run for the touchdown."
The Ravens really didn't need Lewis' legs, because they relied on the running of their halfback. Morris, 6 feet and 245 pounds, ran for 176 yards on 36 carries, both career highs. The Ravens' offensive line pushed around the Redskins, with great contributions from guards Jeff Blackshear, Ben Cavil and Leo Goeas, and standout play from tackles Orlando Brown and Jonathan Ogden.
The Redskins entered the game with the 29th-ranked rushing defense in the league.
"We came in knowing we were going to run the ball, and we knew they couldn't stop us," Brown said. "It was crunch time. Even when they figured it out, we were unstoppable."
Said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda: "Bam did an outstanding job. He made yardage, and he made tough yardage. This is the Bam we expect to see, and this is the Bam we know can do the job for us. Bam is a tough, hard-nosed runner, and he goes along with our line extremely well because our line is the same way -- very tough."
Despite the run-oriented attack basically out of the one-back set, the Ravens gave the Redskins a lot of looks on offense. The Ravens went with three- and four-receiver sets to match up their offensive line with smaller Washington safeties who had to play linebacker roles. They put tight end Eric Green on the outside occasionally to draw the safeties out of the middle to allow Morris to go one-on-one with cornerbacks.
Basically, Marchibroda and his staff gave Redskins coach Norv Turner a nice little lesson with an attack of 44 rushes and 21 passes.
"We weren't concerned with what they do. It's what we do," Marchibroda said.
The Ravens also got a decent effort from their defense on another one of those days when Frerotte was inconsistent, completing 17 of 33 passes for 199 yards. The Ravens, who had been pummeled by opposing ground attacks in the past two games, held the Redskins to 67 yards rushing, as Lewis led the front seven in tackles with 15 and end Michael McCrary and Boulware provided the pressure on passing downs.
"The first quarter is difficult, because you're trying to figure if a team is going to run by using the cutback or power," Siragusa said. "After that, I think everyone stepped it up a little."
The Ravens scored on their first possession, going 68 yards in five plays capped by Testaverde's 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Derrick Alexander on a crossing pattern. The big play was Testaverde's 39-yard pass to slot receiver Jermaine Lewis down the right sideline to the Redskins' 16.
Redskins return specialist Brian Mitchell took the ensuing kickoff 61 yards to the Ravens' 39, setting up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Frerotte to receiver Leslie Shepherd that tied the game with 6: 45 remaining in the first quarter.
But the Ravens then put together their most impressive, in-your-face, down-your-throat drive of the season, going 78 yards in 20 plays, lasting 11: 22.
Morris had 10 carries for 49 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run up the middle with 10: 23 left in the second quarter that eventually put the Ravens ahead 14-7 at the half. Twice the Ravens converted on fourth down.
"That's how you run the football. That's power football," Ogden said.
The Ravens, still using the runs of Morris, got a 34-yard field goal from Matt Stover with 9: 22 left in the third quarter and a 28-yard field goal from him with 12: 16 left in the game to take a 20-14 lead.
But before the first field goal, Testaverde almost lost a fumble on first-and-goal from the 6 as he dropped back to pass. However, Morris recovered to set up Stover's field goal.
"Somebody had it, but I was in there wrasslin' for it," Morris said.
"Somebody definitely hit my arm," Testaverde said. "They were blitzing, and Bam stepped up. He came over and asked me if it was him that hit me. Someone did. I'll be anxious to see it on film."
Testaverde had another fumble in the remaining time. On second-and-seven at the Ravens' 27, he was sacked by linebacker Greg Jones, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Marvcus Patton at the 25 with 9: 25 left.
The Redskins got as far as the Ravens' 7, but on fourth-and-two, Turner sent in Scott Blanton to kick a 26-yard field goal instead of going for the go-ahead touchdown with 6: 42 remaining.
Turner was second-guessed after the game, but so was Testaverde on his second fumble of the quarter for calling an audible after Morris had rushed for 7 yards on the previous play.
"We were going to go for the first down, and they [the Ravens] called time out," Turner said. "We talked it over and felt we would get at least another shot at it or two, and we did get opportunities."
Said Testaverde: "I made too many moves back there, and I never saw [Jones] coming."
The frustration showed in his offensive linemen, as both Ogden and Brown had to be calmed down on the sideline while screaming in the direction of Marchibroda coming off the field.
"I wasn't talking to anyone in particular," Ogden said. "I don't remember exactly what I said, but I do know we can't be screwing up in crunch time."
And what did Brown say?
"Nah, man, y'all trying to get me in trouble," he said. "All I know is that we won. We beat the Washington Redskins. That's it."