Game 9: Ravens' wait ends in a smile

The referees were huddled in the end zone after time ran out, trying to determine if there was a penalty that would give the Oakland Raiders another shot to tie or win the game yesterday, and the Ravens were getting some bad vibes.Ravens center Wally Williams said he thought the officials would give the Raiders another play. Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa thought the Raiders would be awarded a victory. Cornerback Rod Woodson was giving the Ravens' side of the argument in the middle of the officials. And coach Ted Marchibroda said he had no clue to what was going on.

The final verdict, please: Ravens 13, Raiders 10, before an announced crowd of 69,037 at Ravens stadium.

The Ravens breathed a sigh of relief after the tense moments. The Ravens (3-6) broke a four-game losing streak, won their second of five home games this season and won their first game ever in November.

Nothing has come easy for the Ravens. Though the officials conferred to decide whether the Ravens had too many men on the field on the final play, in the end, they let stand rookie Duane Starks' end-zone interception.

Oakland (6-3) had sent on its field-goal team after an incomplete pass for a 57-yard attempt with three seconds left in the game, but then replaced it with the regular offense. The Ravens had players entering and leaving the field. There was chaos.

"The way things have gone for us here in this new stadium, I was waiting for some strange thing to happen like they give them a touchdown and we lose," said Siragusa. "After having all this negative stuff thrown at us in the last couple of weeks, it's nice to be able to throw some of it back."

"The ending was crazy as usual," Williams said. "Yeah, I was waiting for them to give them another chance. Why not? Even when we do win, something weird always happens."

Something weird happened yesterday. The Ravens had only one turnover, and their special teams didn't have any major blunders, as Matt Stover kicked two 30-yard field goals, including the game-winner with 9: 14 left in the game.

The defense turned in its usually strong effort. Woodson returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, defensive end Michael McCrary finished with four sacks and the Ravens had a brilliant goal-line stand in the second quarter. The worst play was by safety/linebacker Ralph Staten, who blew an assignment and allowed tight end Rickey Dudley a 5-yard touchdown pass that tied the score 10-10 with 13: 59 left in the game.

"You don't know, you just don't know," McCrary said, describing the win. "It's been rough, really, really bad. Now, maybe we can get this thing turned around. I've said all along we could beat any team in the league, but we had to hit on all cylinders -- offense, defense and special teams. Today, we got good performances from all three."

The win was all about defense. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware set the tone when he came in untouched on a blitz and hit quarterback Jeff George after a 35-yard completion to James Jett on George's first pass of the game. George played three more plays before he had to leave with an aggravated groin injury, suffered on Boulware's blitz.

Backup quarterback Donald Hollas, who threw two interceptions and just missed three more, threw the first of his flutterballs on his first pass with 3: 08 left in the first quarter. Hollas ran a play-action to his left and then bootlegged to his right. Woodson rolled from the left side with intended receiver Tim Brown, stepped in front of the short pass for an interception and ran down the left sideline for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Ravens lead.

"I saw the bootleg coming and I made the call to the linebackers, but they didn't hear me," said Woodson. "I rolled with him and saw that pass coming. When it got there, I just took it and ran with it."

The Raiders made all kinds of mistakes. They had 356 total yards, but 14 penalties for minus 98 yards. They tortured Starks with Jett, but couldn't contain McCrary or middle linebacker Ray Lewis. McCrary whipped up on rookie left tackle Mo Collins, then ripped through a couple of double-teams in the second half.

"If there is somebody not as experienced across from me, I feel a certain obligation I have to make more plays," said McCrary, a six-year veteran who had a 10-yard sack at the Raiders' 30 with about a minute left in the game. "As an individual, I treated it like any other game. I try to give everything I have. We know that we're capable of stopping anyone. We've got a lot of heart on defense, and we've got a lot of pride."

It showed during the goal-line stand. The Raiders had gone from their 15 to the Ravens' 3. On first-and-goal, running back Harvey Williams was tackled by McCrary after a 2-yard run up the middle.

On second down, Hollas dived and appeared to get over from the 1. But as he stretched the ball over the goal line, he was hit by Lewis, Woodson and linebacker Jerry Olsavsky and fumbled, recovered at the 6 by Williams, who made a second attempt to reach the end zone.

Lewis, who dived over the pile, did a forward roll and chased down Williams short of the goal line. So did Woodson, who spun out of the pile. It was two great moves by two impact players.

On third down, Lewis sacked Hollas for a 4-yard loss after a play-action attempt. Lewis ran down Hollas before he could turn the corner not far from the left sideline.

"The Raiders are a team that plays off motivation, and if they scored there, we might have had problems," Lewis said. "In that situation, our mentality is not to let anyone in."

But instant replays showed Hollas broke the plane of the goal line with the ball.

"I thought I got it across," Hollas said. "But that's a judgment call. The ball is the only thing that has to cross the goal line."

Lewis said: " Jermaine Lewis caught a pass earlier in the game, but the officials said he didn't. Well, Hollas didn't get the signal that he scored so he didn't score, right?"

These were the kind of breaks the Ravens haven't gotten most of the year. They did, however, get their usual offensive production minus the turnovers. The Ravens had only 213 yards HTC of total offense, but, most important, they controlled the ball for 30: 25.

The Ravens had a 12-play, 55-yard drive that was finished by a 30-yard field goal by Stover with two seconds left in the first half for 10-3 lead, and they got 99 yards rushing on 27 carries from running back Priest Holmes. The offensive line also started dominating in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens had to keep the ball away from the Raiders.

"This is the No. 2 defense in the league," Marchibroda said about Oakland. "I think that's the best defensive team we've played. I think in the first half we had the ball four times and moved into scoring position twice. And the other factor, they moved the football when they had to. And at the end of the ballgame, they moved it in order to win the ballgame."

For the first time in the three years the Ravens have been in Baltimore, there was no bold talk, no us-against-them attitude after a win. The Ravens celebrated for a short while, but are aware they've got a long way to go.

"Everyone talked about how good the Raiders defense is, but we felt as though we may have been overlooked," said Siragusa. "We feel as though we play pretty good defense. And everyone is asking about us playing for Ted. We have to play for ourselves. There ain't no guarantee I'm going to be back here next year unless we start winning some games."

"We're 3-6, so I don't know if this is a shot in the arm," Woodson said. "But it helps."

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