Wednesday, November 14, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. The ending was extremely bizarre, the result rather satisfying for the Baltimore Ravens.
Coach Brian Billick yesterday approved how the officiating crew handled the hectic final seconds of Monday night’s game against Tennessee, and praised his team’s performance in the 16-10 victory.
The Ravens (6-3) appeared to have lost on a last-second quarterback sneak by Steve McNair. But referee Bernie Kukar correctly overruled the touchdown call because Baltimore linebacker Peter Boulware made contact with McNair before setting up on defense.
After calling offside, a dead ball foul, against the Ravens who were caught off-guard by the quick spot of the ball Kukar allowed the Titans one more play. McNair was stuffed short of the end zone as time expired.
“It was a strange sequence of events, but the bottom line is the officials ultimately got it right in a roundabout way,” Billick said.
And the bottom line is the Ravens are riding a three-game winning streak and stand a half-game out of first place in the AFC Central after playing six of eight on the road.
With a little less good fortune, the Ravens could be in last place with a 3-6 record. They rallied for a one-point win at home against Jacksonville, then beat Pittsburgh 13-10 when Kris Brown missed four field goals. Monday night, the Ravens might have lost if Boulware didn’t touch McNair on his way back to the line of scrimmage.
“What’s the old saying, the better you are, the luckier you get? Fate is going to play a hand in it one way or another,” Billick said. “But Tennessee had the ball with a chance to win the game. How much was luck that they got down there, and how much was luck that we stopped them?”
The Ravens beat the Titans despite scoring only one touchdown in a second straight game. Just like last year, however, the defense was good enough to make up for the shortcomings of a sputtering offense.
“I think our defense played magnificently. Offensively, it was rough and it was ragged, but we made some plays when we had to,” Billick said.
The Ravens rank 22nd in rushing offense, and likely will be without Terry Allen for the next four to six weeks. Allen fumbled on his only carry Monday night and broke his right hand in the process.
Rookie Jason Brookins, now the team’s leading rusher, will continue to get the majority of the work.
Quarterback Elvis Grbac wasn’t too sharp in his return after a 21/2-week absence with bruised ribs, but Baltimore won anyway and now has a favorable schedule. The Ravens finish the season with five of seven games at PSINet Stadium, where they have won eight straight.
Although Billick enjoys the rivalry with the Titans, he’s probably glad Baltimore and Tennessee will be in different divisions next year when the NFL realigns to make room for expansion Houston.
After ripping the Titans in a much-publicized locker room speech last year, Billick is quite unpopular in Tennessee. Following Monday night’s game, Tennessee fans directed their anger at the officials.
“It’s nice to know there’s someone in Tennessee probably hated more than I am,” Billick said. “Bernie and his crew took a little heat off me.”

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