CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Few Ravens have been as consistent as wide receiver Derrick Alexander this year. Yesterday, Alexander further symbolized the Ravens' frustrating 4-11 season, when he came off the field late in the first half, after aggravating the left shoulder strain he suffered two weeks ago.
Alexander finished with one catch for 6 yards, easily his least productive effort of the season.
"It was so sore that I didn't know if I was going to play today," Alexander said. "I was feeling pretty good at the beginning of the game. Then I took a hit on it, and it started feeling pretty bad again."
Alexander's absence opened up a spot for two relative strangers to the Ravens' offense, Ray Ethridge and James Roe, neither of whom caught a pass.
Ethridge has seen limited duty this year, mainly on special teams. For Roe, the Ravens' sixth-round draft pick, yesterday marked his first plays from scrimmage.
"It felt strange, but it felt great," said Roe, a rookie out of Norfolk State. "I haven't had contact since like last November, you know? I wish I could have contributed to the team a little sooner."
Stover on time
Ravens kicker Matt Stover made all the right moves, going 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts and scoring 10 points in a losing cause.
And Stover even made it to Ericsson Stadium on time, unlike Saturday afternoon, when he missed the team's flight to Charlotte.
Stover took a commercial flight Saturday evening and made it to a team meeting on time that night.
"I thought the bus was leaving the [Owings Mills] facility at 2: 45, but it left the facility at 2. When I got to the facility, no one was there. Whoops," said Stover, who expects to be fined after missing the team charter by minutes.
"The people in the organization were worried about me, because I'm never late. I've never even been late for a meeting," he said. "But at least I kept my head on straight and went 3-for-3."
Tough on linebackers
Ravens offensive tackles Tony Jones and Orlando Brown looked at the game as one of the season's toughest challenges. With outside linebackers Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon, the NFC's top two sack leaders on tap, how would they fare?
Greene and Lathon each recorded a sack, although both could be attributed to the Panthers' outstanding coverage that forced Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde to hold the ball too long. On the game's first play, Testaverde left the pocket to his right, before Greene charged up to drop him for a sack.
"I told guys all week that me and Orlando were going to come here and play them [Greene and Lathon] tougher than anyone else has, and we met the challenge," said Jones, who gave one of his most inspired performances of the season. "Kevin got a cheap one [sack], and so did Lathon."
Running back Bam Morris continues to reward the Ravens for signing him to a two-year contract in late September. Morris touched the ball 27 times, producing 133 all-purpose yards.
Morris led all rushers with 89 yards, averaging 4.1 yards on 22 carries. He also was quite useful as a safety valve against the Panthers' potent pass rush. Testaverde connected with Morris five times for 44 yards.
"They were covering our guys downfield, and all week we kept saying take what they give you," said Morris, who added that better days lie ahead for him and the Ravens. In nine games, Morris has rushed for 656 yards on 160 carries, and has accounted for another 199 yards on 21 receptions.
"Nobody has just come out and whipped our butts this year, and I'll be in better condition next year," Morris said. "It will be better for me and better for the team."
Kinchen excels again
Tight end Eric Green missed his third game in four weeks with a sore left knee, and veteran Brian Kinchen moved in once again to fill the void with an excellent performance.
Kinchen led Ravens receivers in catches (six) and yardage (87), and his 29-yard reception early in the fourth quarter set up Stover's 25-yard field goal. That pulled the Ravens within 20-16.
Kinchen has 48 receptions for 511 yards -- both career highs -- this season. In his last four games, Kinchen has caught 20 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown.
Langham on roll
Cornerback Antonio Langham became the first Raven to intercept two passes in a game. He also recorded three tackles and two pass deflections, continuing his surge over the second half of the season.
Those numbers were small consolation for Langham after the game.
"We played pretty good today. We played a good team and we played hard," he said. "It's been like this all year. We go ahead, then we break down somewhere and can't hold the lead."
Line takes hits
The offensive line, one of the team's steadiest and healthiest units, was depleted by two injuries.
Center Steve Everitt missed his second straight game with a pectoral muscle injury he aggravated against the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, and will be tested today. Everitt's status for the season finale against the Houston Oilers will be determined by Wednesday.
Backup tackle Herman Arvie, who suffered a spinal cord contusion in the closing minutes of last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, missed yesterday's game. Most likely, Arvie is done for the season.
Since getting shut out against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson has 12 catches for 146 yards in his last two games. His 23-yard touchdown reception yesterday, in which he outjumped cornerback Eric Davis in the end zone, marked Jackson's 11th score of the season and his first since Nov. 17 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Jackson and Alexander lead all receiving tandems in the NFL with 20 touchdown receptions.
Playing it safe
Greene said that although Carolina trailed by three at the half, the Panthers weren't guilty of underestimating the Ravens.
"We knew this was a good team," said Greene, who recorded his only sack on the first series. "We didn't want this team to sneak up on us and bite us, but initially, they started to do that to us. But we were able to regroup and be the normal second-half team we've been all year and put points on the board."
Anthony Johnson gained 81 yards to become the first Carolina running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Johnson, who has 1,052 yards with one regular-season game remaining, didn't get his first start until the fifth game, after top 1996 draft choice Tshimanga Biakabutuka suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Panthers have won 12 of their last 13 home games, are 7-0 at home this season and 12-3 overall. Ravens defensive end Anthony Pleasant, who recorded one tackle and three quarterback pressures on the Panthers' Kerry Collins, aggravated a sprained right ankle late in the game. Panthers inside linebacker Carlton Bailey, a graduate of Woodlawn High, had four tackles and a sack. The Panthers, who allowed just 50 points in the second half in their first six home games, held the Ravens to three. The Panthers have outscored opponents 93-13 in the second half at home this season, allowing just one touchdown. Overall, the Panthers have outscored all opponents in the second half, 182-56.
Pub Date: 12/16/96