- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

The luckiest team that money can buy fell into another victory at the place formerly known as Raljon yesterday.

Look what the local football team dragged home, in this case a game that featured 11 punts, two field goals, one touchdown and a pass that broke a zillion hearts at the other end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Winning ugly is usually considered beautiful, although the local football team is trying to be the exception.

This is becoming a habit.

The pass in the end zone before halftime was a gift.

Tony Banks must have been reading from Donovan McNabb's playbook. Or was it Shaun King's playbook? That makes three suspects in a row.

"We'll take it anyway we can get it," linebacker Kevin Mitchell said.

The taking was pretty easy.

The pass went to Mitchell instead of to Shannon Sharpe.

Mitchell caught the ball, and the Ravens reserved their right not to score another touchdown this season. The Ravens have not scored a touchdown since Sept. 24, or 12 quarters ago, and the condition is only exacerbated by a quarterback who comes down with a sudden case of colorblindness one yard from the end zone.

"I don't think Tony saw me at all," Mitchell said.

So the quarterback could be just blind, not colorblind.

Who could tell with Banks?

Either way, the Ravens failed to finish the assignment, and the only team to score a touchdown won the game.

"If they get a touchdown there, it changes everything," Norv Turner said.

His is a suspicious 5-2 team, its four-game winning streak fraught with the unusual, unexplainable and unbelievable.

The local football team is staying only one play ahead of the competition, and the one play is sometimes subject to review, if not dependent on the stars being properly aligned.

Banks saw what he wanted to see, undoubtedly an imaginary opening to Sharpe, and Mitchell embraced the ball and then the crowd that loitered around his cubicle after the game.

"This is not normal for me," Mitchell said.

Abnormal goes with the team. Maybe the paranormal, too.

The defense is taking all the bows at the moment. That is a change from the days of Ron Lynn and Mike Nolan, both of whom preferred the bend-and-break philosophy of defense. Each was escorted out of town, possibly at low speeds in a white Bronco.

As it turns out, Ray Rhodes was the team's most significant addition in the offseason, and nothing against Bruce Smith, who is playing as if his 37 years are a lie.

The emergence of the defense comes at a good time, considering the offense, and not to be offensive. The offense does that all on its own.

The local football team is living on the edge largely because it has not shown the capacity to generate points in sufficient quantities. The team is averaging 16.3 points a game, a paltry sum that turns each game into a nail-biting test of wills, left to turn on one stupefying break here or there.

The pass to Mitchell was just the latest.

"Should he have thrown the ball away?" free safety Mark Carrier said. "That's a question they have to ask."

Diplomacy comes easily to those on top.

The question doesn't say much for Trent Dilfer, the No. 2 quarterback in Baltimore. Jeff George knows the feeling. He has not merited a mention since the team's 1-2 start, but his stay as a potted plant is not the result of the 16.3 scoring average.

Victory remains intoxicating, even when it comes wrapped with a warning: Fragile. Handle with care.

"I was brought up with games like that in Los Angeles with John Robinson," Turner said. "You find ways to win."

You find an absurd present in the end zone and a backup linebacker who squeezes it with all his might.

Can these ways persist over a 16-game season?

Fortuitous circumstances eventually demand a correction.

They eventually go the other way.

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