- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

BALTIMORE The longest play in NFL history began with Chris McAlister standing still in the back of the end zone, looking like he had no intention of doing anything but holding onto the football.

Maybe he should have winked.

After lulling the Denver Broncos into a stupor, McAlister took off behind a block from Ray Lewis and high-stepped his way down the left sideline, scoring the touchdown that proved to be the crushing blow in the Baltimore Ravens' 34-23 victory Monday night.

The 108-yard score came on a missed field goal by Jason Elam and capped a team-record 31-point second quarter that gave the Ravens (1-2) a 31-3 halftime lead.

"I have never seen anything like that," Denver's Chester McGlockton said. "I will look at that play the rest of the week as the play that broke our back."

And the one that dropped Denver (3-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Following a crushing block by Lewis on Keith Burns at the Baltimore 5, McAlister broke to his left and easily outran the coverage. He began waving the ball over his head at the Denver 25 and coasted the rest of the way.

"That's actually how we set it up," McAlister said. "You go back and get them to try and go to sleep. Then you go ahead and bring it to our sideline, and everyone sets up a nice wall."

The key was the block by Lewis.

"Chris always asks me to play on the punt return [team]," Lewis said. "He said, 'You throw the lead block.' I said that if I get the chance, I'll start it off for him. And I did."

McAlister's romp topped the NFL record of 106 yards, set three times previously on kickoff returns. The last time it happened was in 1979, when Roy Green of the St. Louis Cardinals took a kickoff all the way against Dallas.

Outscored 35-7 in their first two games, the Ravens trailed 3-0 in the second quarter before beginning a run of 34 straight points. It was an unlikely outburst from a young team that had struggled mightily over the first nine quarters of the season.

"I really think it was a case of a young ballclub coming out and just fighting," Lewis said.

Actually, the Broncos were the ones doing the fighting. A slew of personal foul calls proved costly to Denver in the second quarter, most notably one against Pro Bowl cornerback Deltha O'Neal, who was ejected for bumping head linesman Tom Stabile while protesting a pass interference call.

It was one of many miscues by the Broncos, who were victimized as much by their own mistakes as they were by a team looking for redemption.

"Well, Baltimore came to play," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "They made a number of big plays, did the job they had to do."

Brian Griese went 35-for-53 for 328 yards but was intercepted three times. Tom Rouen had a punt blocked, and Denver was flagged for nine penalties for 91 yards.

Down 3-0, Baltimore used a 15-yard punt return by McAlister to take over at the Denver 46. On third-and-1 from the 23, Chris Redman faked a handoff and threw a strike to tight end Todd Heap, who made a leaping catch in the end zone over safety Kenoy Kennedy.

"The pass was just how I like it, high and soft," Heap said. "I just outjumped the defender."

That ended a run of 22 possessions without a score for the Ravens, who added plenty more over the next 14 minutes.

Top draft pick Ed Reed ended Denver's next possession with the first blocked punt in Ravens history, giving Baltimore the ball at the 13. Jamal Lewis then scored from the 2.

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