- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Vinny Testaverde owns virtually every meaningful passing record in the Baltimore Ravens’ nine-year history. In just two seasons under former coach Ted Marchibroda (1996 and 1997), Testaverde tossed for 51 touchdowns and 7,148 yards.

This season at age 41, the NFL’s oldest starting quarterback has thrown for more than 2,000 yards in half a season for the struggling Dallas Cowboys (3-6), who play the Ravens today at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Somewhat inexplicably, fans and media in Dallas are calling for Cowboys coach Bill Parcells to bench the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner and start Drew Henson, who spent the past three years in the New York Yankees organization. Yet the Ravens (6-3) are fully aware of the damage the 6-foot-5 Testaverde can cause if given time.

“Wow — 41-years-old and doing what he’s doing,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “He can tear you apart. We can’t let that happen.”

Statistically, there is no reason for Parcells to pull the trigger on his starting quarterback. Testaverde has completed 185 of 293 passes for 2,305 yards (63.1 completion percentage) with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Meanwhile, Dallas doesn’t have much of a running game, the defense is banged up and the receiving corps has suffered from injuries and inexperience. Indeed, Testaverde has been Dallas’ most consistent player.

Parcells lashed out at reporters who keep asking why he won’t make a change after New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he would replace Kurt Warner with rookie Eli Manning.

“I’m being as open as I can — you just don’t want to hear the answer,” Parcells said following a 26-3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. “Why should I have to explain [when] a guy throws for 2,000 yards in the first half of the season. Why would you take an unproven guy [Henson] who has not played football in three years and throw him into this?”

Testaverde is on pace to pass for more than 4,100 yards, which would break the club’s single-season record. The Cowboys have not had a starting quarterback complete as many passes in a season as Testaverde already has since Troy Aikman had a 63.7 completion percentage in 1996.

In his 18th season, Testaverde has passed for 43,248 yards, sixth on the NFL’s all-time list.

“One thing about him: Vinny can get hot and Vinny can have two halves,” said Ravens six-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker who Ray Lewis. “He can have one half where he doesn’t play well and have another where he comes out and throws for three or four touchdowns. The thing you have to do with Vinny is just play him straight up, really get in his face and don’t let him get comfortable and get into his rhythm.”

The Ravens have won four of their last five games and are seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season but may have to do without some key performers today. Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister (neck) and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap (ankle) were downgraded to doubtful on the week’s final injury report. Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) will be a game-time decision as will nickel back Deion Sanders (toe).

And the Ravens know if they don’t show up to play, they easily could lose.

“You can’t underestimate your opponent,” star running back Jamal Lewis said. “We started out our season like that against the Cleveland Browns, and we got beat [20-3]. I think we have learned from that.”

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