- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001


BALTIMORE The Baltimore Ravens' defense was its usual dominant self but the revamped offense of the Super Bowl champions couldn't say the same after a 20-17 loss last night to the Carolina Panthers in a preseason game before 66,619 at PSINet Stadium.
Carolina kicker John Kasay won it with a 23-yard field goal with 11 seconds left.
Earlier in the game, linebacker Ray Lewis returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens intercepted Panthers starting quarterback Jeff Lewis three times and held Carolina's starters to just 92 total yards in the first half.
But after the Ravens' regulars left the field, the game got away.
Running back Terry Allen, who made his Ravens debut last night, did nothing to distinguish himself as Jamal Lewis' replacement. A second-quarter fumble by Allen in Ravens territory set up the Panthers' first points of the game.
Based on Allen's performance, the Ravens likely will keep shopping for running backs. Not counting his fumble, Allen carried the ball four times for just eight yards.
New quarterback Elvis Grbac, one of the lone bright spots for Baltimore's offense, completed 11 of 18 passes for 113 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to Qadry Ismail. Grbac also led the team with 18 rushing yards.
Second-year wideout Travis Taylor, battling for playing time after an injury kept him out most of last season, coughed up a fumble deep in Ravens territory that was returned for a second-quarter touchdown.
"Turnovers and penalties … we can't have those," said Ravens head coach Brian Billick. "We won't win if we give up the ball every time we take it away."
While the jury is still out on the Ravens' offense, their defense showed why it is one of the league's most feared units.
Lewis' interception return gave the Ravens a 17-0 lead until the Ravens offense started coughing up the ball deep in their own territory.
The Ravens were missing 13 players because of injuries but their first-team defense dominated. However, once the starters left the game, the floodgates opened the Panthers outscored the Ravens 10-0 in the second half.
"Any time you play well in a game you don't want to get an 'L,' " Lewis said. "Not to discredit anybody, but the second and third-team guys need to understand that. When the first-team guys go in there and set the standard, [the reserves] have to follow through."
In the first half, the Panthers managed just 43 rushing yards on 14 carries (an average of 3.1 yards). Lewis completed six of 11 passes for 19 yards. The Ravens' defense looked like it will pick up where it left off last season when it set NFL records for fewest points allowed (165) and fewest rushing yards (970) allowed in a 16-game schedule.
Grbac was outstanding. Unfortunately, his supporting cast didn't play at his level. Coming off a five-for-eight performance for 62 yards in last week's 16-3 exhibition loss at the New York Jets, Grbac nearly doubled his numbers from the Ravens.
It certainly didn't look like the Ravens were going to be able to move the ball after their first two possessions two three-and-outs. The Ravens' anemic offense wasted a brilliant 39-yard kickoff return by Jermaine Lewis on the opening kick.
Then, the Ravens offense sputtered. On the Ravens' first play of the game, Grbac stuck the ball on Allen's hip and the ball bounced away. Luckily, Grbac recovered the miscue, officially ruled a fumbled by Allen, for a five-yard loss.
On the Ravens' second possession, Grbac completed one of three passes for only four yards. It took the Ravens offense their third possession of the game to finally kick into gear. The Ravens marched 76 yards in 14 plays and most importantly ate 7:43 of game clock to take a 3-0 first quarter lead on a Matt Stover 20-yard field goal.
During the drive, Grbac completed four of five passes for 65 yards. That was the only sustained drive the Ravens first-team offense mounted all game.
Then, the Ravens defense took over. On third-and-four at the Ravens 43, cornerback Chris McAlister stepped in front of a Lewis pass intended for wide receiver Steve Smith and returned the ball 49 yards to the Panthers 19.
"I got a good jam on him," McAlister said. "The ball got there a little late. I was in the right place at the right time and then we were able to convert the touchdown, so that felt good."
Grbac's only touchdown of the game came four plays later. After an incompletion, a three-yard loss by second-year running back Jason Brookins, and a 11-yard completion to fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Grbac was faced with a fourth-and-two at the Panthers 11.
Ravens coach Brian Billick decided to go for the first down instead of a Stover chip shot. Grbac took a deep drop and fired a tight spiral to the back left corner of the end zone as Ismail made his break on a out pattern beating Panthers cornerback Doug Evans to make it 10-0.
"They were in man-to-man," Ismail said of his touchdown. "It was a great read on Elvis' part to find me in the back of the endzone. Our defense got us the ball and we were able to convert the turnover into points. It was a sweet throw and that adds up to six."
Evans made up for getting burned by Ismail when he returned Taylor's fumble with 2:01 left before halftime. On first-and-10 at the Ravens eight, Grbac hit Taylor for a 3-yard gain over the middle. Panthers strong safety Mike Minter stripped Taylor at the Ravens 11 and Evans scooped up Taylor's fumble to cut the Ravens deficit to 17-10.

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