Jets' D bends and gets breaks Tough when it matters, New York holds Ravens to 3 field goals, only 1 TD; JETS 19, RAVENS 16 (OT)


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Ravens went out for several Sunday drives in the rain on the Giants Stadium carpet, but they never actually arrived at where they wanted to go until there were three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

In the end, the Ravens had more yards than they knew what to do with yesterday. But the Jets' rubber-band defense snapped just once, only allowing them into the end zone on the touchdown that forced overtime before New York's 19-16 sudden-death victory.

"The offensive team that they have is an excellent group," Jets coach Bill Parcells said of the Ravens. "They give you some problems. I was just happy the way we were able to play out there. Our defense was outstanding today."

The outstanding part was its ability to force the Ravens to settle for three Matt Stover field goals along the way. That had a lot to do with the outcome, as did a couple of turnovers and another threat that resulted in no points.

"I guess you could say today we were a bend-but-don't-break type of deal," Jets linebacker Dwayne Gordon said. "It was just one of those games. I don't think we can rely on playing like that throughout the rest of the season because we might face an opponent that might be just too good for that."

Still, the Jets' defense got tough at some pivotal times.

For instance, late in the first quarter, the Ravens had a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.

Bam Morris was held to a 1-yard gain on first down. Cornerback Otis Smith broke up Vinny Testaverde's pass for Michael Jackson at the goal line on second down. Testaverde missed a well-covered Jermaine Lewis in the back of the end zone on third down.

Field goal.

Skip ahead to late in the second quarter.

The Ravens were staring at a third-and-two situation from the Jets' 4. Morris tried to travel off left tackle but was driven back by Gordon and strong safety Victor Green for a 2-yard loss.

Field goal.

"We stepped up when it was important for us to," Gordon said. "I think you can look to maybe 10 plays that killed us as far as the yardage is concerned. I think we pretty much held them in check. They had a few big plays. If we took those plays away, I think we played pretty good defense."

The Jets, who are in sole possession of first place in the AFC East this late in the season for the first time since 1986, came up with two turnovers in the second half to help the cause.

They really forced only one -- a Morris fumble that Smith returned 40 yards to set up a field goal. The other came when Testaverde tried to force a pass from his knees and threw it right to Smith, who ran it back 25 yards to set up another Jets field goal.

Testaverde drove the Ravens from his 20 to the Jets' 13 in the fourth quarter. But his fourth-and-two toss fell harmlessly to the turf when he got pressured and wide receiver Derrick Alexander slipped.

"I don't think Vinny was rattled today," Gordon said. "From the look in his eyes, it seemed like he was pretty comfortable. I'd be comfortable, too, if I had that offensive line that he has. They throw some big guys out there.

"They protected him pretty well, although we did get some pressure, and pressure when it counted, too, pressure on third down and pressure when he had to throw the ball away. Those were key plays for us."

The only time the Jets didn't make the key plays was in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, when Testaverde took his team 80 yards in 13 plays with no timeouts for the tie. The touchdown was a 16-yard pass to Alexander in the left corner of the end zone.

"That was my fault," Green said. "We were in perfect coverage. I was responsible for the deep third of the field. I bit on the post route. Things like that are going to happen."

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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