Interceptions, back pain are price of involvement for Ravens' J. Lewis; He gets 1st catches, returns; reviewed safety call wrong

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The party had another lousy ending for the Ravens, but at least wide receiver Jermaine Lewis managed to show up this time.

A week after not touching the ball in the season-opening, 27-10 loss in St. Louis -- Lewis joined the action in yesterday's last-second, 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh at PSINet Stadium.

Lewis had three catches for 48 yards, added six punt returns for 56 yards, including a 28-yarder that he nearly broke for a touchdown, and he came away with some pain for his efforts.

Lewis paid the price after teaming up with Stoney Case on a 19-yard completion, which set up a game-tying touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail with 1: 22 left.

On the Lewis reception near the right sideline, Pittsburgh cornerback Travis Davis drilled him in the back, leaving him lying on the turf for several minutes. Lewis never got a chance to return, as the Steelers drove for the winning field goal.

"[Davis] got me right in that spot," said a wincing Lewis, pointing to the area where he had back spasms briefly in training camp.

"It felt real good to get involved, but I could have played better."

It was apparent that the Ravens were determined to get Lewis the ball, so much that the first two times that starting quarterback Scott Mitchell tried to connect with Lewis, his pass was intercepted by Dewayne Washington.

On the Ravens' third play from scrimmage, Mitchell tried to force a pass to Lewis underneath, where Washington climbed over top Lewis to pick it off. With 10: 45 left in the first half and the Ravens at the Pittsburgh 42 in a second-and-19, Mitchell tried to go deep to Lewis, but Washington leaped to intercept it at the Steelers' 9.

"The first one was a curl route. [Washington] was playing behind me, and he had good position on the curl when I turned around. I think Scott was trying to work me into the game," Lewis said.

"On the bomb, we were just trying to take a shot. I should have broken up the pass."

Further review further pain

The league's new instant replay system came under fire again yesterday, as the Ravens came up on the short end of two calls.

On the first play, the Ravens appeared to pick up a safety when dime back James Trapp broke free on a blitz and tackled Kordell Stewart in the end zone with 10 minutes left in the half. Officials initially gave Stewart the benefit of forward progress, saying he was tackled at the Pittsburgh 1.

Ravens coach Brian Billick challenged the call, which was upheld.

Then, in the closing seconds of the half, the officials ruled that wide receiver Justin Armour failed to get his second foot in bounds after catching a pass that would have been good for a first-and-goal inside the Steelers' 10. Once again, Billick challenged the call, to no avail.

Of the two calls, replays indicated that the officials erred on the safety call -- or lack thereof. Trapp certainly thought so.

"When I hit [Stewart], he was in the end zone. We both were in the end zone, so it's a safety, right?" Trapp said. "Kordell thought it was a safety. He said it as he was going toward the sideline."

Billick was a bit more diplomatic. "It would have been nice to have a safety but [the Steelers] still had a long third down and we're going to get good field position," he said.

Then he mentioned Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy, who was fined $10,000 by the NFL for criticizing officials a week ago.

"Tony Dungy is a good friend of mine, and I'm not going to pay $10,000 unless you all want to put together a fund."

Ismail catches 4 more

Ismail continued to build on a solid preseason and a good performance in the season opener.

Ismail caught four passes for 53 yards yesterday, including his first end-zone reception since 1996.

Ismail beat Washington to the inside, before catching a perfectly thrown pass by Case that tied the game 20-20 with 1: 22 left. Ismail said it was the same play in which Case had overthrown him one possession earlier.

"I told Stoney in the huddle, if you can put it right between the numbers, there's no way they can stop the play," Ismail said.

Ismail leads Ravens receivers with eight catches. He is second to Armour with 99 yards.

Rookie kicker gets leg up

Rookie kicker Kris Brown gave Steelers coach Bill Cowher a few anxious moments in training camp, notably in a scrimmage at Frostburg against Washington when he missed three of four field-goal attempts from 43 yards.

"About six weeks ago he was hitting our linemen in the back of the head with balls at Frostburg," said Cowher, who watched Brown kick a 36-yard winner against the Ravens yesterday.

"I was really happy for Kris Brown," said Cowher, who gave Brown a game ball.

When Brown missed a 38-yard attempt in the first exhibition game, the fans chanted "Norm, Norm, Norm" for veteran Norm Johnson, who was sent packing when he wanted a $600,000 contract. Brown is making the $175,000 rookie minimum.

Brown rallied to make seven of 10 in the preseason and hit three chip shots last Sunday in Cleveland, although he had an extra point blocked.

Brown, who said he hadn't made a winning kick since high school, said he didn't have time to be nervous.

"To be honest, everything happened so fast you don't have time to think about it. You have to keep your emotions in check," he said.

Bump and bummed

For the second straight week, veteran safety Rod Woodson got tangled up with a teammate on a play that ended in disaster.

In the season opener, Woodson bumped cornerback Chris McAlister, who fell down 4 yards short of a touchdown on an interception return against the Rams.

Yesterday, with 1: 46 left in the first half, Woodson was trying to close in on Pittsburgh running back Richard Huntley as he turned the corner on a left sweep.

But Woodson and cornerback DeRon Jenkins bumped slightly, throwing both off course as Huntley was making his cut upfield. The resulting 17-yard touchdown gave the Steelers a 14-7 lead.

"I could have made the play. We got tangled up. Let's leave it at that," said a dejected Woodson. "We don't point fingers at anybody. He scored, and let's leave it at that."

McCrary has second helping

Right defensive end Michael McCrary got his first sack of 1999, and played considerably better than he did in St. Louis, where he saw his first action of the year.

"My second wind kicked in today," said McCrary, who played nearly every snap. "I'm not going to get better by standing around and watching. I definitely felt better than I did last week. But I really wanted the win."

Et cetera

The Ravens are 16-33-1 since moving from Cleveland and their victory total is tied with St. Louis, New Orleans, Chicago and Indianapolis for the fewest since 1996. Pittsburgh center Dermontti Dawson made his 166th consecutive start. He trails only Tennessee center Bruce Matthews (183) among active players. Dawson has started every game at center since Nov. 27, 1989. Jerome Bettis passed John Henry Johnson and now only trails Franco Harris among Pittsburgh's all-time leading rushers. Bettis now has 4,416 yards. Harris doesn't have to worry for a while. He retired with 11,950 yards. Linebacker Tyrell Peters (hamstring), safety Kim Herring (ribs contusion), Woodson (left hip pointer) and Trapp (shoulder) were also hurt. CBS analyst Jerry Glanville had seen enough of Mitchell by halftime yesterday. During a break in the action, Glanville said, "Scott Mitchell should be up here with us." The Ravens are 4-12-1 in games decided by three points or fewer.

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