Ravens wide receiver Derrick Alexander said it was the best way to erase a bad week of practice.
Under the lights and in the pouring rain at Memorial Stadium yesterday, Alexander put together the finest three hours of his young career. When the Ravens' 31-17 upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers was complete, Alexander smiled at the numbers that underscored his exceptional afternoon.
Alexander, who caught seven passes for a career-high 198 yards and a touchdown, was a bundle of crisp routes, sure hands, slick moves and open-field speed -- a package the AFC's top-rated pass defense never solved.
"I had it going today. I was feeling like I couldn't be stopped," Alexander said. "I wanted the ball, and Vinny [Testaverde] was getting it to me. I had a bad week of practice. I felt like I needed
to make up for it. This had to be the No. 1 game in my career."
Alexander, a first-round pick out of Michigan in 1994, has been adding to career-best numbers for weeks. Yesterday, he went over 1,000 yards for the first time, increasing his season totals to 1,073 yards on 59 receptions, to go with nine touchdowns. Each of those numbers marks a career high.
Alexander may never duplicate the 15-minute performance he staged in the second quarter, when he snared five passes for 166 yards and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Testaverde.
"Derrick played as fine a football game as you can play for a receiver," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "He did an outstanding job against an outstanding defensive team."
After a quiet first quarter, Alexander announced his presence with a roar. Three minutes into the second quarter, after the Steelers had taken a 10-7 lead, the Ravens' first possession began at their 38. Testaverde hit Alexander on a short out pattern, and Alexander left cornerback Rod Woodson grasping for air with a terrific head fake to the outside. He cut inside and sprinted down the right sideline for a 53-yard gain. Cornerback Willie Williams prevented a touchdown by dragging Alexander down at the Pittsburgh 9.
Four plays later, the drive ended when Testaverde's pass was intercepted in the end zone. But Alexander had sent a message to the Ravens' offense, which, before his big play, had managed only 16 yards.
"That told our team that, 'Hey, we can do some things against them. We can play on the same level,' " Testaverde said.
Having set the tone, Alexander soon turned up the volume. He started the next drive by turning Williams around on an out pattern, then catching a sideline pass for a 28-yard gain to the Steelers' 44. Later in the drive, Alexander left the game after being shaken up, but he returned two plays later to catch Testaverde's 24-yard touchdown pass. The Ravens led 14-10 with 3: 25 left in the half, and would never trail again.
Alexander got involved in the next series, with a little controversy to boot. On first down, he appeared to lose control of a leaping, 44-yard sideline grab as Williams reached in for the ball. The ball popped out after Alexander hit the ground. After originally ruling a fumble -- which the Steelers recovered -- the officials ruled Alexander had possession.
That moved the ball to the Pittsburgh 28, and set up the Ravens for another score.
"I don't think I've ever had a quarter like that," Alexander said. "They were losing me out there a little bit, and Vinny was putting the ball right there. Going over 1,000 yards was one of the goals I wanted to reach, and it feels great to accomplish it."
Pub Date: 12/02/96
Derrick Alexander has three of the Ravens' eight 100-yard receiving days:
Player Opp. Rec. Yds
D. Alexander Pit. 7 198
M. Jackson Jac. 9 150
M. Jackson N.E. 8 128
D. Alexander at Den. 6 126
D. Alexander N.E. 6 123
M. Jackson St.L. 7 113
F. Turner St.L. 6 108
F. Turner Cin. 6 104