Ravens' Robinson finds his way

OWINGS MILLS - The wide receiver with the surgical scars kept praying alongside his wife and pastor. <P> Marcus Robinson was sprinting, leaping and blocking for the Ravens during the majority of his first football season in Baltimore.

Despite studying the playbook and huddling with confidantes, the former Pro Bowl alternate wasn't catching many passes and hadn't scored a touchdown since joining the team in the spring. All of that changed Sunday during the Ravens' 44-41 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks when Robinson caught a team-record four touchdown passes in the second half of an epic comeback.

Suddenly, Robinson showed a glimpse of athleticism from his standout days with the Chicago Bears before the shredded knee that shortened his 2001 season and a back injury that ended his 2000 campaign.

The imposing player who was ignored on virtually every fantasy football roster this fall had a fantasy outing.

"It's been a long time since that had happened," said Robinson, who finished with seven receptions for 131 yards and touchdowns of 13, 50, 25 and 9 yards. "Coming in here from Chicago, knee surgery, back surgery, everybody's looking at me as injury-prone and I started doubting myself for a minute.

"The last two years have been kind of rough on me. I prayed. My wife has been praying for me. My pastor has been praying for me. You keep that faith and you don't waver and it will stay strong."

Before Sunday, Robinson had only nine receptions for 78 yards. That was hard for him to accept four seasons removed from ranking second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with a Bears' record of 1,400 receiving yards on 84 receptions with nine touchdowns.

The 1999 Pro Bowl alternate gained separation in several previous contests, but something always went wrong. He was stuck in obscurity on the lowest-ranked passing game in the league.

"I don't necessarily know that he wasn't playing well," Baltimore director of pro personnel George Kokinis said. "With defenses loading up the box, someone has to step up and make a play and it was the right time for Marcus to do that." Anthony Wright, Robinson's college teammate at South Carolina, threw it short for an interception against Miami as Robinson stumbled. Robinson was blatantly tripped by cornerback Terrell Buckley on another slip-and-fall in a 9-6 loss to the Dolphins.

There were a fair amount of drops sprinkled in the first three months of the season, too. Initially, it looked like nothing had changed Sunday before Wright and Robinson began exploiting the Seahawks' cornerbacks. Robinson dropped a slant-and-go pattern down the left sideline in the second quarter.

"I should have caught that first one and I was down on myself, but Anthony came right back to me," Robinson said. "He said I'm going to need to you."

To open the second half, Robinson skied over Seahawks cornerback Ken Lucas on a fade route that closed the gap to 17-10.

He caught a slant against Shaun Springs, trucked strong safety Reggie Tongue so badly he gave him a concussion and redirected his acceleration for a 50-yard touchdown catch.

It was Robinson's longest reception in three years on the way to his first 100-yard receiving day since Oct. 7, 2001 against the Atlanta Falcons.

"It was great to see," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Marcus needed to impact the game for his confidence, and for the team's confidence in him. Hopefully, we can build on that.

"At the very least, teams are going to have to at least consider what is going on the outside with Marcus Robinson running down the field." Robinson's 9-yard score cut the Seahawks' lead to 41-38. He drew a 44-yard pass interference call against rookie Marcus Trufant to set up Matt Stover's game-tying field goal in regulation.

He also contributed to getting Stover in place for a game-winning field goal in overtime with a 19-yard reception on 3rd-and-15.

Robinson eclipsed the Ravens' previous mark of three touchdown receptions shared by Michael Jackson and Qadry Ismail.

"We're always hoping a receiver could have a day like that," Kokinis said. "When a new guy comes into a system, they start playing faster once they don't have to think about taking the steps. When a guy starts feeling confident about what we're doing, that's when his true ability comes out."

Robinson returned to the Ravens' training complex Monday to review the game, a much more enjoyable experience than usual.

The view hadn't changed for him. He was still 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He still had a portion of the speed that allowed him to become a track All-American in the 100 and 200 meters at South Carolina.

It's a far cry from his Chicago days, but he'll take it.

"Guys had probably heard about me, but they hadn't seen it on the field," Robinson said. "I just haven't been producing. Things are coming around for me now."

NOTES: Wright will be announced today as the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. … Safety Ed Reed's fourth career blocked punt, his third returned for a touchdown, has been nominated for NFL Play of the Week. … Linebacker Ray Lewis helped personally distribute 440 Thanksgiving meals to needy Baltimore families on Tuesday.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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