Ravens' line dance stays in step for victory; OK after 'neck burner,' Ogden and injured Swayne force remaining 5 to step up

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ATLANTA -- Ravens left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was smiling in the post-game locker room -- hospital gown, neck brace and all.

Ogden did not see his teammates score 16 unanswered points to come from behind and beat the Atlanta Falcons, 19-13, yesterday. Ogden was lying in Grady Memorial Hospital, having precautionary tests performed on him and having the scare taken out of him and his teammates.

"The doctor was giving me updates every 10 minutes, but I didn't see any of the game. I was lying down getting X-rays," Ogden said.

Ogden's neck felt sore, but the pain was subsiding in the afterglow of a rare, post-game party on the road. And what a circus the big man missed, especially the improbable show that unfolded along the Ravens' offensive line.

By the time the game ended, right tackle Harry Swayne had been sidelined with a sprained ankle, and the team was down to five linemen. Everett Lindsay had switched from left guard to left tackle. Spencer Folau, Ogden's original replacement, had moved to right tackle. Mike Flynn had played his first snaps of 1999 at left guard. And the Ravens, who began the game with only seven active linemen, had no one else left.

"I was thinking, where are our big guns? That's not good for the receivers," Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail said. "I'm glad J. O. is OK. I was a little concerned. I take my hat off to the guys for coming in there in a hostile environment and picking things up. It was tight, but it worked out."

The odyssey began with less than a minute left in the first half. Ogden was hit in the head by Atlanta defensive end Lester Archambeau while chasing what he thought was a loose ball. After lying on the field for some 10 minutes, Ogden was strapped to a spine board and carted off to the locker room for preliminary X-rays.

"It felt like a stinger, but worse," Ogden said. "I had feeling the whole time. I laid there [on the field] kicking a little bit. I knew I was hurt, but I knew I had feeling everywhere, too."

Ogden, who suffered a cervical strain -- commonly known as a "neck burner" -- never lost feeling in any of his limbs or extremities. But the Ravens lost a major weapon when their two-time Pro Bowl player went down.

In came Folau, who got into the flow by helping to spring running back Errict Rhett for 28 yards on the second play of the second half. Folau held his own for the rest of half, especially with some strong run blocking. Then Swayne, who had injured his ankle in the first half, went down midway through the fourth quarter, and the Ravens were scrambling again.

With their final lineup set, the Ravens went three-and-out on their last two series of regulation, setting up their dramatic victory in overtime.

"Those things happen. Guys get hurt, people have to move around, you have to adjust. It would have been stranger to move to right tackle, because I would have to change my stance," said Lindsay, who played all five positions for Minnesota last year. "It's saddening to see a guy [Ogden] lying there stiff like that. It made me feel so much better to see him walk in here. He's a friend. I work with him every day."

With one more injury, the Ravens "might have had to go with [tight end] Frank Wainwright at center and move me to guard," said center Jeff Mitchell. "That's the beauty of having a guy like Everett who can do all that. Mike Flynn knows his stuff. I'm confident in these guys."

Ravens coach Brian Billick spoke like a coach who had barely escaped the hand of fate. Ogden and Swayne will be re-evaluated today, and Swayne appears probable for next week. Billick hinted he probably would carry eight linemen on the 45-man roster against Tennessee next week. Left guard James Atkins would be the likely addition.

"You had some people moving around today. The versatility we've talked about since Day One allows you to do that," Billick said. "You roll the dice [by activating only seven linemen]."

R. Lewis 'gamble' floors QB

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis gave the Ravens another superlative effort by recording a game-high 12 tackles, including 10 solo, and a pass deflection. And his most memorable hit of the day did not show up on the statistics page.

With just under seven minutes to play in the first half, Lewis burst through a gap in the middle uncontested, just as Atlanta starting quarterback Tony Graziani was releasing a pass. Lewis blasted Graziani, who fell backward and lay motionless on the Georgia Dome turf for several minutes, before leaving the game with a concussion.

Lewis said he was not supposed to blitz on the play. He had been assigned to cover a back out of the backfield. But the free shot at Graziani was too juicy to pass up.

"Sometimes you gamble. I just shot the gap. I just went," Lewis said. "Football is football. It's a violent game, but you never want to see anybody lay down there for that long. When I hit him, I knew he was hurt. I hit him at full speed. I hope I didn't break his ribs."

Said Graziani: "I didn't even see [Lewis] until the last second. He whacked me good. I can't afford to sit back there and get hit like that. I've got to do a better job and our offensive line has to do a better job."

Support less than Super

The luster born from last year's improbable Super Bowl run by the Falcons has lost its shine. After a sellout crowd packed the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome for the season opener against Minnesota, the paid attendance yesterday was just 50,712 and the mostly quiet crowd was several thousand smaller than that.

"You expect that when you're 14-2 the year before and you start off 0-3," said Atlanta receiver Terance Mathis.

The NHL expansion Thrashers and the always-popular baseball Braves are the "in" teams for the moment in the fickle sports town.

"People want to see a winner around here," Mathis said. "You can't make excuses because Jamal [Anderson] and Chris [Chandler] are hurt and there's injuries on the defensive line. You have to be professional and go out and do your job."

Webster hobbles off

Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster suffered a turf toe injury late in the second quarter while trying to stop running back Ken Oxendine unsuccessfully on a fourth-and-one. Webster left the game, did not return, and will be re-evaluated today.

And with Tony Siragusa already out with a knee injury -- he could return against Tennessee -- that left the defensive tackle rotation in the hands of second-year men Lional Dalton and Martin Chase, along with veteran Fernando Smith, who can play anywhere on the line.

The Falcons managed only 52 yards rushing on 26 attempts. Smith shined with a sack and a fumble recovery. Dalton had three tackles.

"They are bright young guys, and they can play," Webster said of Dalton and Chase. "They know the system. I'm comfortable with them. They're getting better, and they have no choice but to get better."

Salute to Stoney

Ismail did not have the biggest plays. But with a team-high six catches for 65 yards, he helped settle the Ravens' sagging passing game, which produced a paltry 6 net yards in the first half.

"I take my hat off to Stoney [Case]. You can tell when a person isn't confident, especially a quarterback," Ismail said. "He didn't give up. He put some great touches on some of those passes. [Quarterbacks coach] Matt Cavanaugh really settled him down."

Et cetera

Outside linebacker Jamie Sharper followed up last week's superlative, 10-tackle effort with another beauty yesterday, recording seven tackles and two more on special teams. Defensive end Rob Burnett had his best game of the year, with seven tackles, a pass deflection and a forced fumble. At this rate, Jermaine Lewis has no shot at reaching a Pro Bowl as a receiver. Lewis, barely involved in yesterday's offense, had just two catches for 6 yards. On the season, he has eight receptions for 77 yards and no touchdowns. Backup fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo's first game with the Ravens did not end on a pleasant note. He severely sprained an ankle during a kickoff return midway through the third quarter and did not return. The Falcons were held under 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season. The 52 yards was the lowest total for the Falcons since being held to 48 against Carolina on Sept. 7, 1997. Under Reeves, the Falcons are 7-10 when they gain less than 100 yards rushing. Atlanta is 14-5 under Reeves when they gain at least 100 yards rushing, including 11-1 last season. When Morten Andersen kicked a 35-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, it marked the first time this season Atlanta had led in a game.

Hunt Archbold contributed to this article.

Rare road win

... Yesterday's road win was just the Ravens' sixth in 26 games in their three-plus-year existence:

Year Date Opp. Score

1997 9/14 at N.Y. Giants 24-23

9/21 at Tennessee 36-10

10/26 at Washington 20-17

1998 9/13 at N.Y. Jets 24-10

11/22 at Cincinnati 20-13

1999 10/3 at Atlanta 19-13, OT

... but don't get carried away

The victory moved the Ravens to 2-2 for the third time in four years. However, in each of the past three seasons, they've quickly faded out of contention.

Year Start Skinny

1996 2-2 Lost 7 of next 8

1997 3-1 Lost 5 of next 6

1998 2-2 Lost 5 of next 6

Pub Date: 10/04/99

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