TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Trent Dilfer swears somebody else was
wearing his uniform.
Dilfer had an awful day Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens barely
sidestepped an embarrassing stumble on their heady rush to the
Arizona's woeful Cardinals blew five chances inside the
Baltimore 30 Sunday, and the Ravens held on for their sixth
consecutive victory, 13-7.
"Here is my story," Dilfer said. "I was in the locker room
before the game and some guy hit me across my face and taped me in
my locker, took my uniform and went and played.
"I don't know what happened. I'm just trying to put some humor
Baltimore's offense was a throwback to October, when it failed
to score a touchdown in five games.
Dilfer completed 12 of 22 passes for 70 yards, was sacked four
times and was intercepted in the end zone.
Arizona's Michael Pittman fumbled when he was knocked
unconscious at the Baltimore 8, and the Cardinals' Terry Hardy
fumbled trying to score after a reception at the Ravens 5.
|Jamal Lewis' 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the Ravens' only TD on Sunday.|
The Cardinals also had a failed quarterback sneak on
fourth-and-inches at the 28, a missed 46-yard field goal by Cary
Blanchard and, finally, a batted-down pass by Ray Lewis saved the
Baltimore coach Brian Billick called it a good warmup for the
playoffs, even though it came against a team that has lost six in a
row and had been outscored by an average of 24 points in its last
"If you could script it as a coach going into the playoffs, you
need a few challenges, and this was a challenge today," Billick
The Ravens' offense reverted to its punchless October form.
Arizona (3-12) outgained Baltimore 309-214.
"We couldn't get anything going," the Ravens' Shannon Sharpe
said. "Their defense stepped up. I don't know if we could have
drove and got a touchdown the way we played today."
The Ravens, who play the New York Jets in their regular-season
finale next week, need one shutout to tie the NFL record of five in
a season set by Pittsburgh in 1976.
Baltimore is a much better bet to break the league record for
fewest points allowed in a 16-game season. The Ravens must hold the
Jets to 41 points or fewer to break the mark of 187 set by the 1986
The Ravens' lone touchdown came after linebacker Jamie Sharper
grabbed Jake Plummer's pass out of the hands of Chris Gedney and
returned the interception 45 yards to the Arizona 6.
Three plays later, Jamal Lewis, who rushed for 126 yards in 29
carries, scored from the 1 to put Baltimore ahead 10-7 with 6:18
left in the third quarter.
"He had his hands on the ball," Sharper said. "I had my hands
on the ball. I just pulled it away. Maybe I wanted it a little more
than he did."
Arizona took a 7-3 lead on Plummer's 26-yard touchdown pass to
Frank Sanders with 9:41 left in the third quarter.
Plummer completed 23 of 43 passes for 266 yards, but was
Plummer directed a late drive to the Baltimore 12. He appeared
to have fumbled the ball away at the 17 on a hit by Peter Boulware.
But Arizona interim coach Dave McGinnis, who reportedly will
sign a long-term contract with the Cardinals on Monday, asked for a
review, and the officials reversed the call, ruling that Plummer
was attempting to pass.
Billick was still livid about the call after the game.
"Evidently, if that's the ruling, then I need to reteach my
quarterbacks so we can avoid any kind of sacks," he said.
Still, the drive ended on fourth-and-5 from the 12 when
Plummer's pass was batted down by Lewis with 1:57 remaining.
Plummer was trying to hit David Boston on a slant.
"It was there," Plummer said. "It would have been a
touchdown. The guy just barely got it with his arm."
Matt Stover kicked 42-yard field goals in the first and third
quarters for the Ravens' other scores.
"I'm sick to my stomach for those players in the locker room
and all the fans who showed up through all we're going through
now," McGinnis said, promising better things ahead. "You don't
judge anybody by how high they've climbed. You judge their
character by how high they bounce after they hit bottom. This group
will bounce, I promise you."
||TOM DONAHOE'S BREAKDOWN
Question on the Ravens: Why did Baltimore score just one TD against
Donahoe: Baltimore's offense seemed to revert to the way it played in
the middle of the season. Trent
Dilfer struggled with some of his decisions and the Ravens did not do a
good job of protecting him. The Cardinals' defense played more physically
than it has in recent weeks, and you have to give them some credit for the
struggles of Dilfer and the Ravens. With the defense the Ravens have,
they're fortunate to be in a position where their offense doesn't have to
score many points. The biggest key for Baltimore heading into the playoffs
is to not turn the ball over. In many games, 13 or 17 points will be plenty
for the Ravens.
Question on the Cardinals: Is Dave McGinnis the right coach for the
Donahoe: Congratulations to Dave McGinnis on being named the
Cardinals' coach for at least four more years. Coach McGinnis has brought
enthusiasm and toughness to Arizona. You saw evidence today of how hard the
Cardinals played in a game that had little significance. Time will tell if
he is the right person for the job, but reports are that the Cardinals are
very much behind this move.
Tom Donahoe, ESPN.com's NFL analyst, was formerly the Steelers' director
of football operations.
Arizona defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who had a sack and
two tackles, said he felt better than he'd felt in 18 months, when
he underwent the first of his two knee surgeries. ... The home
crowd of 37,452 means Arizona has the five smallest crowds in the
NFL this season. ... Baltimore can win the AFC Central title with a
victory over the Jets and a loss by Tennessee loses at home to
Dallas. ... Arizona's Mark Smith, who had one sack all season, had
2½ in this game.
Shannon Sharpe Official Site