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Scoring the Ravens

Some offensive talent is there -- just no touchdowns

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Friday January 26, 2001 11:07 AM

By John Donovan, CNNSI.com

 
Storylines
Flags and Flattery
Direct Snaps
Dumbest Thing ...
The Bottom Line

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Baltimore offense is not that bad. Well, maybe, statistically speaking, it is. Maybe that five games the Ravens stumbled through earlier this season without a touchdown proves that, yeah, they are dreadful offensively.

But a team with a solid rookie like Jamal Lewis at running back and an old pro like Shannon Sharpe at tight end, a decent enough offensive line and a speedy Qadry Ismail at wideout can't be all that bad.

Can it?

"It's funny," says Lewis, who will be a target of the New York Giants' defense when the teams meet in Super Bowl XXXV on Sunday, "it seems like when the other team scores, we go out and put together a drive and get the ball in the end zone.

"It seems like sometimes we just play when we have to. But it shows, we do have the ability."

The ability of the Baltimore offense, or the lack of it, is the only thing keeping the Ravens from being bigger favorites than they are in Sunday's game. Their October freeze -- they didn't score a single offensive touchdown that whole month -- made big news.

But the Ravens point out that they won two of those games, actually outgained their opponents overall in that stretch and had more first downs in that time frame. And three of the defenses they played were then in the Top 5 in the league.

Even the Ravens realize, though, that those numbers aren't enough to convince their critics.

"You can't blame them," says Lewis. "If you don't do it ...

"I think we could put up [more] points. But I don't think we've had that complete game where everyone on the offense had gelled."

Lewis could well be the key to it all Sunday. He is a bruiser, ripping off five 100-yard games this season, averaging better than 4.4 yards a carry. If he can be as productive against the Giants' defense Sunday, the Baltimore offense finally may get some credit. Maybe even some points.

"We have a lot of great guys on offense, so if you key on me too much, somebody else is going to make a big play," he says. "You have to stay honest, somewhat."

On to the Super Bowl Day at a Glance and this question. Siragusa, anyone?

The answer: Can't avoid him.

Distractions
There may be some, yet -- there are some bars and strip clubs in this town, you know -- but, so far, the two teams have handled all the media attention and the ticket requests and the fawning fans with aplomb.
Kicking
With the expected defensive standoff Sunday, lots of attention this week has been paid to the kickers, Brad Daluiso of the Giants and Matt Stover of the Ravens. They're trying not to think of Scott Norwood.
The weekend
It's when all the stars and all the athletes and roll into town for the big game. Friday and Saturday nights will be busy all over the Bay area. Seen at a table in an Ybor City watering hole on Thursday night: Baseball stars Bobby Bonilla and John Franco.
Flag -- Britney Spears:
You'd be dismayed at how many grown men were upset that the young pop diva didn't keep an appointment with the media on Thursday. This flag's on their behalf.
Flattery -- The players:
We know it's their job and all, but just about every player encountered this week showed wonderful patience in answering every imaginable question hurled at them -- often the same question dozens of times. It could've been much worse.
Flattery -- John Fox and Marvin Lewis:
Maybe both to be head coaches soon, the defensive coordinators for the Giants and the Ravens (respectively) have taken center stage this week. Deservedly.
Flag -- Ticket scalpers:
We don't mind them fleecing people all that much -- if you're willing to pay $500 or more for a game you could see better on TV, you deserve it. But we do mind the constant harassment looking for people who have tickets so they can go and fleece someone else.
A prediction: Turnovers will make this a higher-scoring game than many expect.
America loves an underdog. But, point spreads aside, is there a real underdog in this one?
Glenn Parker, wine connoisseur, is one interesting fellow.
"When I grew up, I was a lot shorter."
-- Ravens defensive lineman Tony Siragusa
It's hard to say whether this week of run-up to the Super Bowl -- two weeks, really -- helps or hurts the game. The NFL gets a ridiculous amount of attention, but the attention isn't always good. The players may lose their edge, sitting out two weeks and being in a strange city for one week. But they have a chance to heal and game-plan better. The only answer that is certain is that, by the time the game gets here Sunday evening, everyone involved will be more than ready to go. More than ready.

 
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