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Titans Win Ugly Over Ravens

When you haven't had a winning season since 1993, you take a victory any way you can. Even if it's one of the ugliest ever in the NFL.

Neil O'Donnell threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Yancey Thigpen in the third quarter as the Titans survived an NFL record for penalty yardage in beating Baltimore 14-11 Sunday for the franchise's best start since 1992.

"If there's such a thing as playing bad and winning, you saw it today," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

Tennessee (4-1) won its 10th straight AFC Central Division game and stayed atop the division despite being penalized 15 times for 212 yards. The previous record was 209 yards by Cleveland against the Chicago Bears in 1951.

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Game Summary

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  • Left guard Bruce Matthews, who played in a 30-21 loss in 1985 in which the Houston Oilers had 188 yards in penalties, was happy to take the victory.

    "We've lost pretty before. It feels good to win ugly," said Matthews, the 17-year veteran who also was flagged for a false start in the second quarter. He switched back to guard this week from center after Scott Sanderson ruptured a disc in his back.

    "I'm still very conditioned to snapping the ball where you can't be offsides. When I'm ready to go, I go. Now I've got to throttle it down a bit."

    It got so bad at one point that the Titans couldn't even get a punt off. Craig Hentrich punted three times consecutively in the third quarter, with the first two nullified by an illegal player downfield and then Anthony Dorsett ran out of bounds and came back into the play.

    But even with the Titans trying to give the game away, the Ravens (2-3) couldn't move the ball without help.

    Two defensive pass interference penalties totaling 96 yards set up two of Matt Stover's three field goals, and Baltimore got its final two points when Ray Lewis stopped Rodney Thomas in the end zone for a safety at 3:33 of the third to make the score 14-11.

    Stoney Case, who rallied the Ravens to an overtime victory over Atlanta last week, couldn't pull any magic Sunday.

    Baltimore got the ball back with 4:10 left, and Tennessee's Samari Rolle sacked Case for the second time on third-and-12 to stop the Ravens.

    Case had one last chance with 38 seconds remaining. He threw a short pass to Justin Armour, then found Qadry Ismail for 32 yards to the Tennessee 41, but the Ravens had no timeouts left and time expired before they could try another play.

    "It seems we've taken a step backwards," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's very frustrating, but I've been there before."

    Both teams had trouble moving the ball as Tennessee totaled 272 yards on offense and Baltimore 246, with Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden missing most of the game after restraining his neck.

    "You've got one Pro Bowl player on the offense and you lose him that's going to hurt you," Billick said.

    The Titans had managed just 29 yards after its first-quarter touchdown drive before finally getting moving after Stover kicked a 50-yarder with 10:42 to go in the third.

    O'Donnell hit four different receivers in driving Tennessee 73 yards in six plays, and he capped the drive by finding a wide-open Thigpen in the corner of the end zone for a 14-9 lead with 7:23 left in the third.

    O'Donnell was 24-of-35 for 216 yards.

    The Titans did manage to stop Errict Rhett, who came in as the AFC's leading rusher with three straight 100-yard rushing games. He managed only 59 yards on 21 carries. Case was 13-of-37 for 207 yards.

    The Ravens hurt themselves twice in the first half. They were driving on their second possession of the game when Jermaine Lewis was penalized for a crackback block at the Tennessee 12, and Case threw two incomplete passes before Stover kicked a 44-yarder.

    Stover added his second field goal, a 46-yarder, at 8:13 of the second to pull Baltimore to 7-6 when a 16-play drive stalled when rookie John Thornton sacked Case on third-and-9.

    Tennessee led 7-6 at halftime thanks to its longest drive of the half. Fullback Lorenzo Neal, signed during the offseason, dived in from a yard out in the first quarter.

    ^Notes Neal's first-quarter touchdown was his first since Nov. 17, 1996, when he was with the New Orleans Saints. It came on his first carry with the Titans.

  • O'Donnell's 7-yard pass to tight end Michael Roan in the third quarter put him over 20,000 passing yards for his career. He now has 20,111.
  • Thigpen's 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter gave him three receiving TDs for the season, matching his total for all of last season.
  • Each team challenged an official's call, only to lose. Tennessee disputed a completed pass in the first quarter, while Baltimore lost on an incomplete pass to Patrick Johnson on third-and-1 in the fourth.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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