Ravens survive late Jets' charge

BALTIMORE -- The football glanced hauntingly off Justin McCareins' outstretched,suspect hands, skipping toward the back of the end zone into the grasp of Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. In that instant, it was finally over. The Ravens survived their hefty collection of miscues, gaffes, costly penalties and a debatable play-call to manufacture a 20-13 victory over the New York Jets.

Two potential dropped touchdown catches by McCareines and a short-hopped throw to Laveranues Coles during the Jets' final drive, allowed Baltimore (1-1) to win its home opener Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium despite New York overcoming a 20-3 deficit with 10 unanswered fourth-quarter points.

"Anybody who's watched us for a while knows that this is how it goes in Baltimore," said Lewis, who played without any setbacks six days after straining his right triceps. "Nothing's every easy for us. In this league, I've learned that when you get someone down, you have to put them away.

"The bottom line is that we won. Wins are the only things that matter, it doesn't matter how you get them."

Still, it was disturbing to the Ravens that they were unable to put the Jets away.

During the first three quarters, the defense held the Jets to 107 total yards and one field goal. Yet, the Ravens allowed 197 yards and 10 points in the fourth quarter.

"This is a great defense, but they get paid also," Ravens linebacker Bart Scott said. "Next time, we have to show that killer instinct and put teams away. When you got them down, you got to bury them."

With starter Steve McNair sidelined due to a groin pull, Baltimore won the duel of backup quarterbacks as Kyle Boller outperformed Kellen Clemens in his first NFL start.

The Jets (0-2) were unable to take full advantage of the Ravens' mistakes.

Instead of a rout after victimizing Clemens early, the reigning AFC North champions were just relieved to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

During the Jets' last drive, safety Ed Reed missed an open-field tackle on Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery's 50-yard reception. Then, a defensive holding penalty on safety Gerome Sapp on a 3rd-and-16 incompletion kept the drive going.

If not for McCareins' butter fingers, the game at least would have gone to overtime.

"That's nerve-wracking," tight end Todd Heap said. "We were very fortunate. It would have went to overtime, and that's what we were preparing for.

"It's not easy. I don't care what the score is, we seem to make it tough on ourselves."

Nickel back Corey Ivy missed a tackle on Cotchery on the previous Jets' drive, a 44-yard gain that led to Clemens' 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Baker to bring the Jets to within seven points and striking distance of an upset.

Reed declined interview requests after the game. As he walked up the tunnel into the locker room, the All-Pro repeatedly said, "Bottom line, we won."

Following the score, Baltimore only took 25 seconds off the clock as Ravens coach Brian Billick called for a pass on first down to Demetrius Williams. The incompletion also led to a scary moment as Williams landed on his wrist, but was unhurt.

"We took a shot," Billick said when asked to explain his rationale for not running it.

Three plays later, a punt gave the Jets the football back at their own 20-yard line with 2:38 left.

Although the defense eventually closed out the Jets as Lewis intercepted Clemens with 1:04 remaining, Baltimore made it much tougher than it had to be as their 11 penalties and poor tackling took a toll.

"We do make it interesting," Billick said. "It was a great win. It's tough to win in this league. We've evened up the slate. It's time to move on to the next one.

"It's always tense when they have the ball and you're up by seven and they have a chance. But you have to have faith in our defense and we do. We've been here before and we'll probably be here again."

During the second half, the Ravens surrendered 231 yards after yielding just 63 by halftime, including a mere 43 from Clemens, who was intercepted by Reed, with a 19.4 quarterback rating.

Clemens finished 19 of 37 for 260 yards with four sacks, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 60.6 rating. And he picked up 176 of his yards in the fourth quarter.

"They get paid to play, too," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "I think that kid is going to be okay. He seemed like he grew up during this game."

Meanwhile, Boller efficiently completed 23 of 35 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 97.9 quarterback rating.

Boller hit running back Willis McGahee (97 rushing yards) in stride for a 2-yard touchdown on a swing pass, his first NFL receiving score and his first since joining the Ravens in a trade this offseason. That capped a 65-yard drive where Boller, who wasn't sacked, went 6-for-6 for 53 yards.

"I feel like we were efficient, moved the ball and put some points on the board," Boller said. " I feel very comfortable out there. I understand this offense very well. Each time I go out there, I feel like it gets a little bit easier on me."

Later, Boller connected with Heap for a 4-yard score with six seconds remaining in the first half for a 17-3 advantage.

Unlike last week's 27-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals when Heap's last-minute touchdown catch was nullified incorrectly on an official's offensive pass interference call, this one was ruled a score after an instant-replay review determined that he had control and dragged his cleats in bounds.

"They tried to take that one away from me," Heap said with a laugh. "It was close. I tried to get my feet in as best I could.

"I didn't know, I thought I was in. As soon as I saw the replay up on the screen that was when it was pretty definite."

In the second half, McCareins dropped a potential touchdown at the 5-yard line with 1:55 left, followed by his other huge drop in the end zone to clinch the game for Baltimore.

"You feel bad for them, but on the flipside you love it," said receiver Derrick Mason, who caught eight passes for 54 yards. "I'm glad he dropped it. I'm glad Laveranues Coles did drop it.

"I was surprised. It was probably just a lack of concentration, but I'm glad he had a lack of concentration. After the game, I patted [McCareins] on the back and said, 'Oh man, you should have had it.' Not to be brash, but we're trying to get a win."

Although the Ravens didn't have McNair or All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden in the lineup and lost defensive end Trevor Pryce with a left broken wrist along with multiple self-inflicted blows, they were simply gratified to win.

"It says we're a pretty resilient team," Heap said. "Everybody's asking all the questions last week, 'What are you going to do? What are you going to do?' Well, the next guy steps up and you have to fill those shoes one way or another. "You're not just going to throw in the towel and give up. To win a ball game in that fashion and get those guys some reps can only help out in the long run."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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