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NFL Recap (Tennessee-Baltimore)
Posted: Sun October 11, 1998 at 7:58 p.m. EDTTENNESSEE 12, BALTIMORE 8
BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- Steve McNair had a dazzling 40-yard touchdown run and safety Blaine Bishop intercepted Eric Zeier's desperation pass at the goal line with no time remaining, as the Tennessee Oilers outlasted the Baltimore Ravens, 12-8, in a battle of AFC Central Division rivals.
With his team trailing 2-0, McNair completed an eight-yard pass to tight end Michael Roan at the Baltimore 40 and then proceeded to do the rest himself. After rolling right, McNair avoided the rush of defensive end Rob Burnett, before sprinting outside and then cutting back to the middle and outrunning the Ravens' secondary to give the Oilers a 6-2 lead.
Bishop ended a frustrating day for the Ravens by fielding Zeier's throw just in front of his own goal line as time expired. Baltimore (2-3) finished the contest a woeful 4-for-16 on third-down conversions and were held to a season-low 36 rushing yards, while committing 13 penalties for an astronomical 141 yards.
"It's a loss that hurts," said Baltimore coach Ted Marchibroda. "I hoped we could separate ourselves from the pack, but we didn't. The better team won and we have no excuses. We couldn't find ourselves, and I think our third downs hurt as much as anything."
Tennessee running back Eddie George, who came into the game averaging a measly 2.9 yards per carry, carried the ball 30 times for a season-high 121 yards, posting just his second 100-yard game of the season and first since Week Three at New England. George had three carries for 40 yards on the Oilers' lone touchdown drive.
"It wasn't pretty at all," said George. "But we got the win and that's what's most important. Our defense won the game for us." We were finally consistent running. We needed to prove ourselves today and I'm happy we did that."
McNair, who has had success running the ball against the Ravens in the past, gaining 140 yards and scoring three touchdowns in his previous two encounters with Baltimore, rushed three times for 47 yards and threw for another 207 on 17-for-29 passing.
"The past two weeks, we've worked and worked on our running and today we were able to see us come back to that," said Fisher in reference to the Oilers' practices during the bye week. "The disappointing thing is that we didn't score points."
Al Del Greco hit a pair of field goals for the Oilers (2-3). He shanked a 41-yarder late in the first half for just his second miss in 13 attempts this year.
Baltimore running back Priest Holmes was held to a meager 29 yards on 14 carries after rushing for 173 yards in his first NFL start two weeks ago. Holmes did catch 13 passes for 98 yards, nearly half of which came on the game's final drive.
Zeier, making just his second start of the season, was 25-for-44 for 249 yards. He suffered his first loss as a starter after posting a 31-24 victory at Cincinnati two weeks ago. Zeier defeated the Oilers, 21-19, last December 12th, tossing three touchdowns in relief of injured starter Jim Harbaugh.
"They had a good scheme against us on third downs and they did it all day long," said Zeier. "That took us out of the things that we needed to do."
Tennessee wideout Yancey Thigpen left the game with a groin pull in the fourth quarter and Baltimore tight end Eric Green suffered a punctured lung late in the first half, further depleting the Ravens' receiving corps, which was already without injured wide receiver Michael Jackson. Green is in stable condition at University of Maryland Medical Center.
The Oilers avenged a pair of losses to Baltimore last season after sweeping the season series from the Ravens in 1996.
Tennessee held a 344-263 edge in total offense, but the defense was the story as they sacked Zeier three times and forced him into poor throws on several occasions.
"The defense rose to the occasion today", added Fisher. "They made the plays and they made them to win."
The Oilers defense was extra tough in the fourth quarter, as defensive end Kenny Holmes stuffed Holmes on a 4th-and-1 at the Tennessee 41 with less than nine minutes remaining in the game.
"The difference we needed was one big play and that was the turning point in our game," said Holmes. "That 4th-and-1 was critical for them and we got out and got it done."
The Ravens opened the scoring, when Burnett recorded the first of four Baltimore sacks, smothering McNair in the end zone on the Oilers opening drive, to stake the Ravens to a 2-0 lead with 13:32 remaining.
After McNair's run put the Oilers ahead, Terry Killens blocked Tommy Richardson's punt on the next Baltimore possession.
Dennis Stallings recovered the ball at the Baltimore 12, but the Tennessee offense stalled before settling for a 26-yard field goal by Del Greco with 12:45 remaining in the second, extending the advantage to 9-2 and cap the scoring in the first half.
Del Greco finished off a nine-play, 69-yard drive with his second field goal, a 29-yard effort with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter, giving the Oilers a 12-2 lead.
The Ravens, who boast the league's worst red-zone offense, were stopped at the Tennessee 3-yard line after marching seven-plays for 72 yards on the ensuing drive. Matt Stover made a 21-yard boot with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter, as the Oilers' defense stiffened yet again.
Stover added a 45-yarder just over a minute into the fourth quarter as the Ravens closed the gap to 12-8.
Baltimore began the final drive at its own 11 with just over two minutes remaining. Zeier proceeded to complete 6-of-8 passes to move them to the Tennessee 29, but his final throw was picked off by Bishop.
"If we go out there and play the way we're capable of playing, we can beat anybody," said Baltimore cornerback Rod Woodson. "But if we go out there and shoot ourselves in the foot, like we've been doing, we're not even going to beat Pop Warner footbal teams."
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