Qadry Ismail played on both sides of the fence yesterday, and the Ravens wide receiver came up shining on both counts.
As a receiver, he accounted for nearly one-third of his team's passing yardage, while producing the day's biggest offensive play, a 45-yard reception from Stoney Case with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. That set up the Ravens' final score, giving them the cushion they needed to secure the first victory of the Brian Billick era.
Then there was Ismail the impromptu defender. In what may have been the game's key play, Ismail forced and recovered a fumble after a Case interception late in the first half.
With the Ravens leading 10-0 and in a third-and-four at their own 12, Cleveland linebacker Lenoy Jones picked off Case in the middle of the field around the 20, and seemed to have a path to the end zone. That's when Ismail tackled Jones from behind.
"[Jones] had a lane, and he was about to take it to the house. Talk about being in the right place at the right time," Ismail said. "It was kind of a strip [the ball] move, but the big thing was making sure I got him. That ball came out and I was like, 'Whoa, it's mine.' "
Midway through the third quarter, Ismail also found the ball in a more conventional setting, when he beat cornerback Ryan McNeil down the left sideline for a 45-yard reception to the Browns' 13. That alone nearly accounted for a third of the team's 150 passing yards, and it set up Case's second touchdown run to give the Ravens a 17-3 lead with 5: 30 left.
Ismail had two catches for 49 yards. Ravens wide receivers only accounted for six receptions on the day, with Jermaine Lewis grabbing three.
Pushed and peeved
McNeil thought Ismail got away with pushing off on him before making the big catch. McNeil, though, still blamed himself for not making the play.
McNeil was called for pass interference and the Ravens declined the penalty because Ismail caught the ball.
"We live in the world of the NFL and it's unfortunate that they got that call. I'm upset that I made it close," said McNeil, a cornerback in his seventh NFL season. "I shouldn't have let him catch the ball."
McNeil wasn't going to risk a fine, though, by knocking the officials. "I'm not going to lose any money," he said. "You guys saw it and unfortunately it was a big momentum switcher for them."
Siragusa on the mend
Billick said defensive tackle Tony Siragusa had successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Saturday and could return to the lineup in two weeks.
"We feel very good about the surgery," Billick said. "[Siragusa] is thinking he could come back this week. I'm thinking maybe by the Titans game [on Oct. 10]. If we need to, we can hold him up until after the bye."
The Ravens, after trips to Atlanta and Tennessee, do not play until Oct. 21 against Kansas City.
Lional Dalton started in Siragusa's place and had one solo tackle. Fellow second-year tackle Martin Chase also had his first appearance of 1999 and had an assist. Along with Larry Webster and Fernando Smith, they clogged the middle sufficiently to hold Terry Kirby to 51 yards rushing on 18 carries.
"I took about 40 snaps, which is a lot more than I'm used to. It was fun," said Dalton, who cramped up early and was replaced for a short time by Chase. "The excitement of starting got me a little bit. Chase came in and I got my composure."
Safety Rod Woodson fired the most memorable shot to come out of the Ravens' defensive backfield in some time, when he leveled rookie tight Mark Campbell to break up a pass completion at the Browns' 40 with about 11 minutes left in the game.
Woodson said he initially was out of position, and by the time he recognized that Tim Couch was throwing down the middle, all he could do was break up the pass. In the process, he nearly knocked Campbell onto Russell Street.
"I got a late jump on the ball," Woodson said. "I saw I couldn't get the interception, and if you can't get the interception, you've got to hit him. Get a good angle, and try to put all of your weight into all of his weight. And I had a running start. It's very rare you get hits like that in this league."
Couch takes McAlister bait
Rookie cornerback Chris McAlister only plays in a part-time, nickel back role, and he already leads the team with two interceptions.
McAlister sealed yesterday's victory by picking off Couch with 2: 18 left on a pass intended for fellow rookie Kevin Johnson.
McAlister preceded the interception with a little gamesmanship. First, he caught Couch's attention by pressing up on Johnson at the line of scrimmage.
"I kind of baited [Couch]. I walked up to the line, hoping they would [audible] to the deep ball, knowing they had to pass to move it down the field," McAlister said. "When the ball was hiked, I turned and bailed out. There was a little separation [between him and Johnson], but I was able to run with the receiver."
Once the ball was in the air, safety Kim Herring and the entire Ravens sideline alerted McAlister by yelling "Ball!"
"I knew the ball was mine once I turned around and got my eyes on it," he said. "I was just glad [the game] was over. I wanted to hold onto the ball, so we could all go home happy."
O. Brown still a target
Wally Williams, who was here for the game, had some advice for his former teammate Orlando Brown on Saturday when the two men had lunch.
"I met with Wally and he said, 'Look, man, don't you get kicked out out of the game. All you're going to hear is 'boooo.' I was like, 'OK, you're right.' If he didn't tell me that, that [booing] would have caught me off-guard and I would have been ticked," he said.
Williams and Brown both left the Ravens during the off-season for big free-agent deals and Williams was able to come to the game because the New Orleans Saints had a bye this weekend. Brown annoyed Baltimore fans after he left by saying he hated the color purple, and Ravens fans booed him when he was introduced at the start of the game.
"I was just messing around, messing with David Modell and Art Modell, telling 'em I hate purple. It was just a joke," he said.
Brown said he flipped a gesture to some fans behind the bench who were taunting him, but was on his best behavior most of the game.
"I heard them yelling the whole game, 'Orlando,' " he said.
Brown spiked the ball after Johnson scored the Browns' only touchdown.
"That was for the fans in Cleveland. We [planned it] during the week. We were eating in the cafeteria and [he told Johnson], 'Score so I can spike the ball,' " he said.
Don't touch my QB
Offensive tackle Harry Swayne sent a message to the Browns early.
After Case had scored on his first touchdown run, he took a shot to the chin from Cleveland safety Marquis Smith -- some 3 yards after Case had crossed the goal line. The play drew a personal-foul penalty and an immediate confrontation with Swayne.
"You've got to let them know that won't be tolerated. If you don't, they're not going to think about doing it the next time," he said.
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley and running back Jay Graham were both active but neither played. Fullback Tony Vinson sprained his left ankle in the first half and did not return. Cornerback Duane Starks (shoulder burner) and defensive back James Trapp (hip pointer) left but returned. Running back Errict Rhett recorded his 10th 100-yard rushing game. Kyle Richardson tied his own career high by dropping four punts inside the 20. Fullback Charles Evans had a career-high 27-yard reception in the first quarter. Wide receivers from both teams caught a combined nine passes.