The Tennessee Oilers would have preferred an inspired, flawless performance in a game they desperately needed to win.
The Oilers (2-3) were penalized 13 times for 141 yards and scored the game's lone touchdown on a broken play. Tennessee was 4 for 16 on third down and could muster only two field goals in the final 46 minutes.
"The bottom line is that we won. I don't even want to think about the alternative, based on the way we played," Oilers coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Ravens (2-3) were even worse, going 1-for-15 on third down and mustering a team-record low 36 yards on the ground. Even punting became an adventure for Baltimore, as Harper LeBel sent five bad snaps to punter Kyle Richardson.
Ravens running back Priest Holmes, who ran for 173 yards in his starting debut against Cincinnati two weeks earlier, gained 29 yards on 14 carries.
"Offensively, we never got into synch," Baltimore coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We just couldn't totally find ourselves and we couldn't get any drives going. I think third down hurt us as much as anything."
| Oilers quarterback Steve McNair breaks a tackle by Baltimore's Rod Woodson and runs 40 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. (AP) |
"We've got to score. That's the disappointing thing about what happened today," Fisher said.
With 8:19 left, Holmes was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 at the Oilers 41. The Ravens' next chance came in the waning minutes, but Blaine Bishop intercepted Eric Zeier's desperation pass near the end zone as time expired.
"They played better than we did," Marchibroda conceded.
On this day, that wasn't much praise.
The Oilers went ahead 12-2 in the third quarter on a drive aided by -- what else? -- a Baltimore penalty. After DeRon Jenkins was called for pass interference on third-and-6, Al Del Greco kicked a 29-yard field goal.
Baltimore responded with a no-huddle offense and its first decent drive of the day. After the Ravens moved from their 24 to the Tennessee 3, Matt Stover kicked a 21-yard field goal.
Stover kicked a 45-yarder with 13:59 left to cap a 33-yard drive that began with a 29-yard pass interference call against the Oilers' Samari Rolle.
"Sloppy penalties. I apologize," Fisher said. "They're ridiculous. They've got to stop. But the bottom line was that we won a game we had to win."
Baltimore played the second half without tight end Eric Green, who ruptured his lung in the second quarter. He was hospitalized in good condition.
The Ravens had just 82 yards and five first downs in the first half, but trailed only 9-2. That's because the Oilers missed a field goal, fumbled once and accumulated 72 yards in penalties.
"Defensively, we played a great game. But offensively, we have to pick it up," Tennessee receiver Willie Davis said. "We were lacking - three and out just doesn't give the defense enough time."
Tennessee was called for holding on the opening kickoff and for illegal procedure before its first snap. On third down, McNair was sacked by Rob Burnett for a safety.
The Oilers' next mental lapse came later in the quarter when a Tennessee punt went into the end zone. Baltimore's Benny Thompson picked it up after the Oilers gave up on the play and took the ball to the Ravens 38, but Baltimore eventually punted.
McNair then gave Tennessee a 6-2 lead with a twisting run on third-and-2. McNair avoided Burnett in the backfield, cut right and eluded Stevon Moore before cruising down the center of the field for the Oilers' second rushing score of the season.
The Ravens' next possession ended when Terry Killens blocked a punt and Dennis Stallings recovered at the 12 to set up a 26-yard field goal.
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