It did not qualify as a highlight moment, although second-year quarterback Wally Richardson will never forget it.
Richardson, a seventh-round draft pick from a year ago, typically spends his Sundays on the sideline, watching the game with a clipboard in hand. Such is the life of a third-string quarterback.
Yesterday was an atypical day for Richardson, who had never taken a live snap in the NFL. But things turned strange during pre-game warm-ups, when backup quarterback Eric Zeier injured his foot.
"I have no idea how I did it. I turned it somehow," Zeier said. "But I couldn't walk after it happened. I took some painkilling medicine, but that didn't kick in until before halftime."
Then, on the Ravens' first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jim Harbaugh was hit hard by blitzing linebacker Rob Fredrickson after Harbaugh released his pass. Harbaugh suffered a contusion on the "funny bone" of his elbow, and was forced to leave the game.
In came Richardson. He promptly fumbled his first handoff exchange with Priest Holmes, who scooped up the loose ball for 1 yard. One more Holmes run and a Kyle Richardson punt later, and Wally Richardson was back on the sideline.
By the time the Ravens got the ball back, Harbaugh still wasn't ready. That gave Richardson one more series to operate, and the former Penn State quarterback then hit tight end Brian Kinchen for a 1-yard gain. His next pass to Kinchen fell incomplete. The Ravens punted again, and Richardson was done for the day.
"It was a surprise, and I was nervous. But I was happy to be in there," said Richardson, whose playing experience had dated to the 1998 preseason. "Everybody was talking to me [on the field], and I was trying to tune things out and take it one play at a time."
For the second time this season, rookie defensive tackle Lional Dalton got a chance to play. And for the second time this season, Dalton made the Ravens look shrewd for signing the former Eastern Michigan star as a free agent before training camp.
Dalton had a solo tackle and an assist, and his production counted significantly. His day began in the first quarter, after the Lions had taken over at their 4 with 6: 31 left in the quarter. Barry Sanders took a handoff and darted to his left. Dalton chased him along the line of scrimmage, hit Sanders and stripped him of the ball.
The Ravens recovered and converted the turnover into seven points, after Holmes scored from the 1 to give the Ravens a 9-0 lead.
"I didn't even know [Sanders] fumbled," said Dalton, who celebrated by dancing in the end zone after the play. "I just knew I made the tackle. I was just thinking I didn't want Barry to break my ankles [with a cutback move]."
Dalton also came up big by getting great penetration into Detroit's backfield in the third quarter to help stuff the Lions on a fourth-down conversion attempt.
Wide receiver Michael Jackson probably played his final game as a Raven, because the team is not expected to exercise his $2.7 million option in 1999. Jackson also has not been the picture of contentment throughout a year in which the Ravens have emphasized the run and built their passing game around Jermaine Lewis.
Jackson turned in a solid effort yesterday, catching four passes for 36 yards. He also threw several good blocks. But Jackson finished the game without a touchdown, and finished a season for the first time in his eight-year career without a trip to the end zone.
Jackson also had a 25-yard completion taken away from him early in the fourth quarter, on what appeared to be an excellent grab. Replays showed that cornerback Kevin Abrams pushed Jackson out of bounds before he got both feet down.
"That's the story of my year," Jackson said. "That's the same catch I came down with all the time in '97."
J. Lewis comes back
After losing his battle with a severe ankle sprain for three straight weeks, Jermaine Lewis started yesterday's game and produced five catches for 40 yards, leading the team in both categories.
Lewis also re-injured the ankle before leaving the game in the second half. He re-entered for one play late in the fourth quarter, then left for good.
Although the crowd was announced at 68,045 fans (tickets sold), there were obviously several thousand no-shows, and some of the fans weren't happy about the team's showing this year.
Some fans had a banner reading: "Hey, Cleveland, We'd Rather Have the Expansion Team."
When the Browns moved from Cleveland to Baltimore, Cleveland was promised an expansion team that will begin play next year.
Boulware comes close
Linebacker Peter Boulware got the Ravens two points in the first period when Ray Roberts was called for holding, dragging him down for a safety in the end zone in the first period.
He also had a shot at an interception for a touchdown when Frank Reich threw the ball right into his hands, but he couldn't hold onto it.
"That was frustrating," Boulware said. "I don't get many opportunities like that and I had it in my hand and it shocked me it was so clean and I dropped it. It would have fun if I would have gotten it. I thought, 'Man, I've finally gotten one.' "
No flag for Brady
When flags were thrown after Donny Brady banged into punt returner Abrams in the first period, there were some fears that Brady would be called for a penalty. But Abrams was called for being too late in putting up his arm in the fair-catch signal.
By the time he put his arm up, it was too late for Brady to stop.
"It wasn't high enough," Brady said. "He's got to make it clear. I tried to stop because I saw him raise his hand. My first reaction was to get out of the way. I'm glad it went my way and the team's way. That's all that counts."
The Lions were then backed up to their 6 when the Lions' Lamar Campbell was called for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, and that led to a safety.
Brady said: "I just wanted to go out and have a good game and at least walk out of the stadium with my head high. Although we had a losing season, we did work hard."
Fan of Marchibroda's
Offensive guard Jeff Blackshear said the Ravens should keep Ted Marchibroda in the organization after he's fired as coach.
"I feel that Ted is a great coach and I just hope they keep him around for the sake of the team and I think he'll be good to just have around," he said.
Not much to say
Detroit's Sanders is still a much better runner than a talker.
When he was asked how the Ravens held him to 41 yards rushing, he said: "I thought they did a really good job of not letting me get past the line of scrimmage."
When he was asked about the direction of the team, he ducked the question.
"It's not up to me to make the decisions for us to head in the right direction to get where we need to win," he said.
As if the Ravens' offensive line hasn't dealt with enough injuries this month, left guard Ben Cavil left the game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and did not return. Little-used Mike Flynn replaced Cavil. Center Wally Williams and tackle Orlando Brown were inactive, and left tackle Jonathan Ogden was available in case of an emergency. Corey Harris ended with a 27.6-yard kickoff return average (on 35 returns) and barely finished behind Detroit's Terry Fair (28.0) for the NFL lead. Fair did not play yesterday. Holmes' first-quarter touchdown was his seventh of the season, accounting for every rushing touchdown by the Ravens in 1998.
Pub Date: 12/28/98