Notebook: Clayton goes long for Ravens

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mark Clayton was so wide open he was practically lonesome. The Baltimore Ravens' wide receiver took advantage of the Tennessee Titans' preoccupation with quarterback Steve McNair's play-action fake and bootleg movement to catch a 65-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Clayton was several yards behind the secondary when McNair lobbed the football into his arms.

The score represents the longest of Clayton's career and the longest offensive play the Ravens have produced this season as they took advantage of a major coverage breakdown.

"We just ran a play-action boot, and the defensive back's eyes were obviously in the backfield and he never looked at the receiver," said Clayton, the Ravens' first-round draft pick last season out of the University of Oklahoma. "I took off down the sideline, threw my hand up and Steve with his great awareness noticed it. He threw a perfect ball and I ended up in the end zone."

Clayton's score briefly gave the Ravens a 7-3 advantage in the first quarter, but Tennessee quickly assumed control with a 19-point lead prior to Baltimore overcoming the deficit behind McNair's three touchdown passes.

"At one point the score was 26-7 and I was like, ‘Wow,'" Clayton said. "They jumped out on us. We are a confident unit. We expected to be able to make plays as an offense and we knew deep down inside that we could get it done."

TRAINING ROOM: Ravens running back Musa Smith was able to walk shortly after being strapped to a backboard and carted off the field with a scary neck injury in the second quarter.

Although X-rays were deemed negative, Smith is likely to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam today according to team officials.

After Smith caught a five-yard pass on third down, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck slammed into Smith's head.

The game was stopped for several minutes while Smith, who was able to move his hands and feet during examinations from medical staff, laid on the turf. He didn't return.

Smith nearly suffered a career-ending injury two seasons ago when he incurred a gruesome broken leg against the Dallas Cowboys.

Mike Smith, who started at middle linebacker with Ray Lewis out with a nagging back injury, partially dislocated his shoulder on the Titans' first offensive series and didn't return. He's likely to undergo an MRI today as well.

Cornerback Corey Ivy suffered a stinger, but was able to return. It was Ivy's first game back since lacerating his kidney last month against the Denver Broncos.

Tight end Todd Heap hurt his ankle in the first half, but X-rays were negative and he was able to return.

EMOTIONAL: The Ravens' emotions were nearly as problematic as defending athletic Titans rookie quarterback Vince Young.

Ravens coach Brian Billick was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with officials. Cornerback Chris McAlister head-butted a Titan. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was flagged for delivering a forearm to the head of an opponent in a scrum. Offensive tackle Tony Pashos was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

"You know things aren't going quite your way when our coach was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "The fact that we came out of here with a win is pretty amazing."

Apparently, the added intensity was partly by design one year after the Ravens were humiliated 25-10 by Tennessee as they were held to a franchise-low 14 rushing yards and didn't generate a first down until the third quarter.

"The biggest thing we told ourselves is that we're giving them everything: the talking, the taunting after the plays," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "We have the reputation so, of course, they're going to call it on us."

Added linebacker Bart Scott: "There was a lot of jawing and a lot of emotions going back and forth. With Steve McNair, Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle coming back, there was a lot of stuff going on, uncharacteristic penalties and allowing them to draw us into that game that we didn't want to play as far as cheap shots and getting into scuffles."

UNUSUAL SEQUENCES: The Ravens were the beneficiaries of a major break on an apparent fumble by running back Mike Anderson in the second half.

The Titans thought they recovered a fumble when Tony Brown stripped Anderson of the ball in heavy traffic. Officials called Anderson down by contact even though defensive tackle Robaire Smith had the ball.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher challenged the ruling, but referee Jeff Triplette upheld it ruling even though instant replay clearly showed the ball coming out. He acknowledged there was a fumble, but stated there was "no clear recovery."

"That was a bad call by the umpire," said Fisher, the co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee who added he never should have had to challenge the call. "The next step in the replay process is to establish who recovered the football."

Plus, the Titans faked a punt on fourth-and-6 at their own 39 with Donnie Nickey handing off to tight end Ben Troupe, who dropped the ball, recovered it and hurdled over cornerback Corey Ivy downfield to the Baltimore 27.

However, officials flagged Tennessee for illegal formation, which the Ravens declined, and gave the ball to them at the Titans 37.

IMPRESSED: The Ravens were extremely complimentary of Young, who ran for a touchdown and passed for 211 yards with one interception.

A protégé of McNair's who replaced him in Tennessee as the third overall pick in the draft out of the University of Texas, Young gained 39 rushing yards. "I told him this team is leaning on his shoulders," McNair said. "He's the future of this football team. I feel like with him getting better week in and week out, he's going to emerge faster than most people think."

Added Pryce: "A couple of times I got back there and hit him dead in the face and he stood back there like a man. On that last scramble he had, I hit his hand with the ball in his hand and I looked down and the ball is still in his hands. I was like, 'Oh my God.'"

FINALLY: Wide receiver Derrick Mason's 11-yard game-winning touchdown was his first score this season, a drought that was beginning to grate on him.

"It was great to finally have Derrick get in the end zone," McNair said. "He has been harping about it."

INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated middle linebacker Ray Lewis (back), cornerbacks David Pittman and Derrick Martin, running backs P. J. Daniels and Cory Ross, linebacker Dan Cody, wide receiver Devard Darling and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.

QUICK HITS: To promote linebacker Dennis Haley from the practice squad, the Ravens released offensive guard Ikechuku Ndukwe. … The Ravens improved to 4-1 on the road this season and boosted their all-time record to 8-7 against their former AFC Central rival. … It was McNair's 10th 300-yard passing day, his first of this season. … McNair, Rolle and Mason were the Ravens' game captains. … Billick awarded general manager Ozzie Newsome the game ball. ...

Billick couldn't resist taking an unsubtle shot at critics of his clock management when asked why he called timeouts with the clock running down prior to Rob Bironas' blocked field goal.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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