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Ravens specialists create their own breaks

Tennessee blocks two punts. Baltimore blocks two kicks. Only the latter takes advantage.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Special?

Hardly. Or very. Depends on the uniform.

photo
[AP photo]
Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis hits Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair just after McNair gets a pass away.
Tennessee's Chris Coleman blocked a pair of Kyle Richardson punts, the Titans got the ball inside Baltimore's 30 both times, and they got three points.

The Ravens' Keith Washington blocked a pair of field-goal attempts by Al Del Greco, the same Del Greco whose missed extra point and field-goal try gave Baltimore a 24-23 win here Nov. 12, and Anthony Mitchell got a 90-yard touchdown with one.

That was pretty much how the day went, Tennessee committing and Baltimore capitalizing for a 24-10 victory Sunday and a trip to Oakland for the AFC Championship Game.

"Al has been a consistent kicker his entire career," Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "When he comes in against us, I don't know what it is, maybe our cologne; for some reason he messes up. I don't want to say too much else; we play him two more times next year. I don't want to mess this up for us."

Mitchell, a third-string safety whose touchdown put the Ravens ahead for the first time, and for good, 2:48 into the fourth quarter, played in the spring for the NFL Europe champion Rhein Fire, then sweated through Baltimore's preseason and the regular season.

"This is a guy who's played 157 games this year," Ravens coach Brian Billick said, exaggerating just a bit. "He had every s--- detail in our practices. When we needed a body we'd say, 'Anthony, get in there.' For him to come up with that kind of play the way he did, it's just an example of what this team is all about."

To Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, it was an example of the way the game went for the Titans. "As a rule, when the ball goes across the line of scrimmage you let it lay there. (Mitchell) picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. We had two (blocked punts land) behind the line of scrimmage and couldn't get a bounce. All we got was good field position and all we got out of it was three points."

When the Titans weren't getting their kicks blocked, they were committing penalties to dig themselves deeper holes. When the Ravens committed what could have been a costly one, it didn't hurt a bit.

Typical was a 10-yard illegal-use-of-the-hands penalty on tackle Fred Miller, wiping out a Steve McNair pass that would have given Tennessee third and 2 at the Baltimore 20 with the score tied late in the second quarter. Three plays later, Fisher sent Del Greco in to try a 50-yard field goal. It was short, but the Ravens were offside. Del Greco tried again from 45 yards, and Washington swatted it away.

And 18 seconds before halftime, Del Greco missed a 31-yarder, the ball hitting the left upright.

Washington's second block, on a 37-yard Del Greco try, wound up as Mitchell's touchdown. "Never two in a game, not in my life," the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive end exclaimed. 'I've won championships with them in high school and Little League. Those blocks were nice, but this is on the way to the Super Bowl, the championship of championships."

Del Greco said he never could remember missing three field goals in one game in his 17 seasons. "To have it come on a day like this is not something you could even think would happen, much less expect it to happen. ... You just have to sit back, get over it, go back and get to work. This was the strangest year I ever had. I had a bunch of big kicks and most of them I made, but a lot of them I didn't."

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