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The defense rests

Ravens break points allowed record in 34-20 win

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Posted: Sunday December 24, 2000 4:57 PM
Updated: Monday December 25, 2000 12:16 AM

  Chris McAlister Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister takes a Vinny Testaverde interception for a 98-yard touchdown. AP

BALTIMORE (AP) -- On the day they completed the finest 16-game season an NFL defense has ever played, the Baltimore Ravens yielded a whopping 524 yards to the New York Jets.

It didn't matter, because the playoff-bound Ravens came up with one big play after another.

Chris McAlister scored on a 98-yard interception return, Jermaine Lewis returned two punts for scores, and the Ravens forced six turnovers in a 34-20 victory Sunday that knocked the Jets out of the playoffs.

New York (9-7), which would have qualified with a win, was eliminated when Indianapolis beat Minnesota.

Vinny Testaverde went 36-for-69 for 481 yards and two touchdowns, but his mistakes ultimately turned the game around. He lost two fumbles and threw three interceptions to allow Baltimore to rally from an early 14-0 deficit.

"Unfortunately, we did too many of the things that cause us to lose, as has been the case in too many games this year. Obviously, too many turnovers and bad special teams play," said Jets head coach Al Groh, who earlier in the week sarcastically claimed New York had no chance against the top-ranked Baltimore defense.

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CNNSI.com's Tom Rinaldi examines yet another disappointing loss for the Jets. Start| One-on-One: Jermaine Lewis
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The Ravens (12-4) ended the regular season with a seven-game winning streak and an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game schedule. Baltimore gave up 165 points, easily breaking the mark of 187 by the 1986 Chicago Bears.

"That should last a long time," Ravens safety Rod Woodson said.

"Al Groh is the one who fueled the fire for this week," Baltimore defensive end Rob Burnett said. "By saying what he did and the way he said it, he didn't believe. I bet you he believes now."

Baltimore, which made only five first downs, can earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if Dallas beats Tennessee on Monday night.

Testaverde's 69 attempts was one short of Drew Bledsoe's NFL record. Richie Anderson had 11 catches for 139 yards, and Dedric Ward caught eight passes for 147 yards.

But that was fine with the Ravens, who limited Curtis Martin to 47 yards on 18 carries.

"We talk about making a team one-dimensional, and they were in a way," Baltimore head coach Brian Billick said.

The game's key play occurred near the end of the first half with the Jets up 14-12. With New York at the Baltimore 8, Testaverde's sideline pass to Ward was picked off by McAlister, who went the distance to put the Ravens ahead to stay.

"I think it had a big effect on us," Testaverde said. "We're looking to go in at halftime with a good feeling, and it turns out to be just the opposite."

It was 20-17 in the third quarter when Lewis returned a punt 54 yards for a score. The Jets closed to 27-20 before Lewis ended any suspense with an 89-yard return with 5:02 remaining.

Testaverde, who played two seasons for Baltimore, set a single-game record for yards passing against the Ravens. He also holds the Ravens' record for yards passing in a game.

Baltimore's Trent Dilfer (11-for-25, 99 yards) left the game briefly in the second quarter with a wrist injury, but returned in the third quarter after backup Tony Banks separated his left shoulder.

Down 14-0, the Ravens got back in the game when Testaverde lost the ball on three consecutive series. After he fumbled away a snap on the Baltimore 42, Dilfer threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail to bring the Ravens to 14-7.

An interception by Baltimore's Duane Starks led to a 42-yard field goal by Matt Stover, and Starks' second pickoff and a 64-yard return put Baltimore at the New York 3. Although the Ravens failed to score, Michael McCrary tackled Martin for a safety to make it 14-12.

The Jets came out in a no-huddle offense that surprised the Ravens and produced a 70-yard drive. Testaverde went 4-for-4, capping the five-play march by taking a lateral from Martin and hitting a wide-open Ward for a 37-yard touchdown.

Then, after Marcus Coleman's interception, Testaverde threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Anderson.

Notes: New York has lost three consecutive for the second time this year. It went from 4-0, 6-1 and 9-4 to out of the playoffs ... The Jets were the first team this season to score on each of their first two possessions against Baltimore. ... Starks' six interceptions this season are a career high. ... It was second time Lewis has returned two punts for scores in the same game.


 
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