- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

BALTIMORE A two-minute defensive breakdown probably ended the Baltimore Ravens' surprising season.
Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch marched the Browns 92 yards with no timeouts in a little more than two minutes to rally the Browns to a penalty-aided 14-13 victory over the Ravens before 69,348 yesterday at Ravens Stadium.
Despite the loss, the Ravens (7-8) are still mathematically alive for a wild-card berth because of the New York Jets' 30-17 victory against the New England Patriots last night.
The Ravens were in control of yesterday's game and let it get away. Cornerback Chris McAlister committed the most costly penalty of the season when he hit Browns running back Jamel White two steps out of bounds at the Ravens' 27. McAlister was flagged 14 yards for unnecessary roughness and Cleveland (8-7) was in business at the Ravens' 13 with 1:26 left. Three plays later, the Browns scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard, play-action pass from Couch to tight end Mark Campbell.
Baltimore coach Brian Billick expected his veteran players to play smarter, but it was McAlister, not one of the team's 19 rookies, that committed a crucial blunder.
"You've got to be smart, that single play, you don't know what happens beyond that. It was unfortunate to do that at that time," Billick said.
McAlister, who is in his fourth season out of Arizona, refused to comment on the play that may have cost the Ravens their season. On second and 10 at their own 45, Couch found White crossing over the middle. In what looked to be a minimal gain, White broke tackles and raced down the right sideline before getting pushed out of bounds. When White was one step away from running off the sideline, McAlister hit the Browns backup running back in the upper torso at the 27.
"There were two outstanding blocks by two wide receivers and it probably allowed it," Browns coach Butch Davis said of White's reception. "Instead of it being a 5- or 8-yard gain, it turned into a big play and the late-hit penalty, that helps."
The Browns took the opening kickoff and marched down the field. Couch carved up the Ravens defense like a Christmas turkey. On the drive, Couch completed five of seven passes for 55 yards, including a key 16-yard fourth-down conversion to wide receiver Quincy Morgan deep in Ravens territory.
The Browns went 82 yards on 15 plays that consumed 7:31 and culminated on White's 3-yard touchdown plunge straight up the middle that made it 7-0. Morgan caught two passes for 33 yards on the Browns' first possession. For the game, Couch completed 22 of 31 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown.
Ravens quarterback Jeff Blake was not to be outdone. Trailing 7-3, Blake engineered an impressive 12-play, 84-yard second-quarter drive that chewed 7:35 off the clock and gave the Ravens 10-7 lead. On third-and-7 at the Browns 17, Blake found Travis Taylor wide open on the right sideline at the 5-yard line.
Taylor, who finished with three catches for 39 yards, dove to catch Blake's low throw. Taylor had the presence of mind to get up and dive into the end zone when he realized no Browns defender touched him down.
The Ravens extended their lead to 13-7 on a 43-yard Matt Stover field goal with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
Baltimore then shut down Couch and the Browns on their next three possessions. Buoyed by the fact that his defense was playing well, Billick opted to punt at the Browns 35 instead of trying a game-clinching 52-yard field goal into the wind with a little more than two minutes left.
Ravens punter Dave Zastudil pinned the Browns at their own 8-yard line with 2:18 left. The Ravens' prevent defense was a disaster and Couch took full advantage. Couch completed six of seven passes for 78 yards on the winning drive.
"I have had my share of comeback wins and I just want to keep that going," Couch said. "We went out in the huddle and we knew our season was riding on that drive. It's either you go down and score or you go home. So, we're still playing next week and we're still alive and it means something."

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