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Pryce happy to lend hand

The Baltimore Sun

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Trevor Pryce has played on two Super Bowl-winning teams, been invited to four Pro Bowls and recorded 13 sacks in a season.

But the most significant play of his career? It might be his block of Rob Bironas' 43-yard field-goal attempt with 43 seconds left that preserved the Ravens' 27-26 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field yesterday.

"That was a first," Pryce said of blocking a field goal to determine the outcome of a game. "I was telling someone that it might be one of the biggest plays of my life."

The block was certainly one of the most dramatic plays in a season in which the Ravens have exceeded many expectations by surging to the top of the AFC North.

After Tennessee had marched 42 yards from its 34-yard line in a span of 1:08, Bironas -- who previously had converted eight of nine field-goal attempts, but missed from 41 yards in the second quarter -- lined up for a 43-yard try.

Rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was supposed to line up over the right guard, but a broken chin strap forced the Ravens' coaches to substitute defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who was so caught up in the excitement that he forgot his assignment.

"I asked Trevor and he told me to push my guy. So I got down there and pushed as hard as I could and Trevor came through," Bannan said. "I felt him go in front of me and split the gap, and I heard that sound [of Pryce's hand on the football]. I couldn't believe that it had just happened."

Pryce, 6 feet 5, joked that the only reason he was in the formation was because of his long arms. Said linebacker Bart Scott: "Thank God that Trevor is 6-8 with the length of [former NBA center] Vlade Divac."

After the block, Pryce could be seen chuckling. Asked about that reaction, Pryce said: "I was more laughing at [the Titans] than the fact that I had just blocked a field goal. They looked confident, and I heard all of the linemen [saying], 'Great protection' and 'We're going to win the game.' And then I blocked it. I think that was the thing that kind of tickled me a little bit."

Still, Pryce understood that the outcome could have been different. The Ravens trailed by 19 points in the second quarter, defensive leader Ray Lewis did not play because of a back injury, and Tennessee's offense was rolling behind running back Travis Henry, who -- with his 107 rushing yards -- became the first opponent to run for at least 100 yards against the Ravens' defense this season.

"I think we made some big plays, but you know when things aren't going quite your way," Pryce said. "When your coach gets an unsportsmanlike conduct call [as Brian Billick did in the third quarter], you just know that it's not your day. The fact that we came out of here today with a win is pretty amazing, to be quote honest."

Then again, Pryce concluded: "At the end of the day, we're 7-2, so I don't really care what happened."

Half and half

After giving up 26 points in the first half, the Ravens' defense turned it around after halftime.

Stat ..................... 1st .................. 2nd

First downs ........14 ...................... 5

Yds. rushing ....117 ...................... 45

Yds. passing ...150 ..................... 55

Points .................26 ......................... 0

Replay follies

Although Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher challenged referee Jeff Triplette's ruling that Ravens running back Mike Anderson was down by contact before he fumbled in the third quarter, Fisher said afterward that he knew he wasn't going to win the challenge.

Fisher, a member of the league's rules committee, said that the committee had declared that for an official to overturn a down-by-contact ruling regarding a fumble, he had to clearly determine who had recovered the football. Since no official could identify who had recovered Anderson's fumble and replays were inconclusive, the Titans' challenge was denied.

Still, Fisher said the officials botched the down-by-contact ruling, adding: "We all saw it, everybody saw it. The runner is upright, and the ball came out. Now how you get down by contact, I have no idea. I hope they hear me in New York because that was field position, and we lost by a point."

M. Smith out, Haley in

With Ray Lewis resting a bruised back, linebacker Mike Smith was expected to man the middle of the Ravens' defense in his first career start yesterday.

He got the start, but suffered a slightly dislocated shoulder during the Titans' opening series and did not return.

That opened the door for second-year linebacker Dennis Haley, who had been promoted from the practice squad Saturday to fill Smith's position on special teams.

Haley finished tied for second in tackles with nine and deflected two passes.

"I was just trying to take it back to the sandlot," he said. "I wanted to go out there and perform and take advantage of [the opportunity] because you never know when it's going to come again."

Smith is expected to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his shoulder today. Running back Musa Smith also is scheduled for an MRI after Tennessee linebacker Keith Bullock inadvertently landed on Smith's neck after a tackle in the second quarter.

X-rays during the game proved negative.

Cornerback Corey Ivy, who suffered a kidney tear against Denver on Oct. 9, returned to his customary nickel back position, but suffered a concussion while covering a kickoff return in the second quarter. His status for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons is uncertain.

Tight end Todd Heap (twisted ankle) and linebacker Adalius Thomas (jammed finger) missed some time but returned to the game.

McNair takes high road

Steve McNair declined to comment on Ray Lewis' implication that the Titans' decision to bar the quarterback from the team's practice facility during the offseason was based on race.

In an interview with ESPN, Lewis insinuated that the franchise would not have banned its star quarterback during a contentious contract renegotiation if he had been Peyton Manning or Brett Favre.

Titans officials adamantly denied using race as a factor in the team's dealings with McNair, and the Ravens quarterback did not take the bait when asked about the issue.

"I don't have a response," McNair said. "A lot of people may take it out of context. A lot of people have their own opinion on how Ray did it, but I'm not getting into this whole deal of commenting on that. What Ray said is what Ray feels, and that's the bottom line."

Extra points

Former Titans Steve McNair, Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle were the Ravens' captains for the pre-game coin toss. ... The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks David Pittman and Derrick Martin, running backs P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross, linebacker Dan Cody, wide receiver Devard Darling and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. ... As is customary after victories in November, coach Brian Billick gave the players today off. ... Billick gave the game ball to general manager Ozzie Newsome. "No one in this room would be here - including myself - if it weren't for Ozzie Newsome," Billick said.

Mughelli's first touchdown

Yesterday may have been a career day for Ovie Mughelli.

Not only did the fourth-year fullback catch a career-best three passes for 44 yards, but he also scored his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter.

On first-and-10 from Tennessee's 30, Mughelli roamed out of the backfield. Feinting a move to the inside to mislead linebacker Stephen Tulloch, Mughelli went back outside and caught a pass in the left flat from quarterback Steve McNair.

Mughelli shook off Tulloch and Keith Bulluck and scampered about 25 yards down the left sideline into the end zone.

Afterward, Mughelli called the score "surreal."

"Did I score a touchdown?" Mughelli asked team spokesman Kevin Byrne. "A simple play. Obviously, the ball wasn't intended for me. I just went out there to give Steve a check-down option. ... Once I saw the goal line, I just started pumping my feet so hard. ... The feeling after waiting four years to score a touchdown, that's hard to describe. Just pure joy."

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