Over the next week, BR.com will take a look back at the story of the Ravens' 2007 campaign. First, a look at the opening four games of the year.
Week 1 (Sept. 10, 2007): Bengals 27 - Ravens 20
Summary: The Ravens opened their 2007 campaign on the grand stage of Monday Night Football, but even after holding the Cincinnati Bengals' high-powered offense to only 236 yards, six turnovers were too much to overcome in a 27-20 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.
Ravens at Bengals
Three turnovers came in the first quarter, with two fumbles from quarterback Steve McNair and one from fullback Le'Ron McClain leading to a 9-0 early Cincinnati advantage. McNair answered with an eight-play, 88-yard scoring drive capped by running back Musa Smith's 6-yard run. Smith (5 attempts, 30 yards) and Willis McGahee (19 attempts, 77 yards in his first game as a Raven) combined to average 4.5 yards per carry on the night.
Bengals linebacker Landon Johnson recovered another McNair fumble - the quarterback was sacked by defensive end Robert Geathers - and returned it 34 yards for a third-quarter touchdown to give Cincinnati a 19-10 lead. After Matt Stover kicked a field goal at 14:02 in the fourth period, Ed Reed took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown two minutes later, putting Baltimore briefly on top 20-19. Reed subbed for an injured B.J. Sams (knee) and went untouched to the end zone.
McNair was injured on the second snap of the Bengals game.
McNair then tossed an interception to Geathers, whose 30-yard return set up the deciding 7-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, followed by a two-point conversion.
Despite McNair leaving with 4:42 remaining from a groin injury suffered earlier in the first quarter, the Ravens had a critical chance to win as the seconds ticked off the clock. Kyle Boller subbed under center and led a late march that culminated in what was thought to be a 1-yard scoring pass to Todd Heap. But, that call was waived because of a questionable offensive pass interference penalty. The game ended when Boller tossed the Ravens' sixth turnover on his final throw.
Key Stats: The Bengals gained only 50 yards in the second half, and were 3-of-13 on third-down conversions. The Ravens gave up six turnovers (four fumbles and two interceptions).
They Said: "This was an extremely tough loss. You always want to get off on the right foot. When you look at the game, we played horribly for most of it. To battle through most of those things, have Kyle come in for Steve (McNair), and multiple guys go down in a long, hot game, it's just frustrating to not capitalize. The fact that we fought back says a lot about our team. I think we can build off of it, but it hurts right now." - Heap
Week 2 (Sept. 16, 2007): Ravens 20 - Jets 13
Summary: A Kyle Boller-led offense built 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter (20-3), but second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens rallied a late-game Jets comeback that had Ravens fans at the edge of their seats.
Ravens vs. Jets
In the end, Baltimore won a hard-fought 20-13 victory over the visiting Jets. Clemens rolled up 176 passing yards in the final period before linebacker Ray Lewis snared an interception with 1:04 remaining to clinch the win. Boller completed 23-of-33 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He hit 8 different receivers, most-notably Derrick Mason (8 catches for 54 yards) and Todd Heap (7 receptions for 76 yards).
On the Ravens' first scoring drive, Boller went 6-for-6 for 53 yards, hitting Willis McGahee for a 2-yard score. Less than 10 seconds before the first half ended, Boller rushed for two key first downs and then lobbed a pass to Heap in the end zone for a 17-3 halftime lead. Matt Stover kicked 28- and 43-yard FGs, which Jets kicker Mike Nugent answered with 50- and 21-yard boots.
The Ravens' pass rush suffered a blow when defensive tackle Trevor Pryce was lost to a broken wrist in the third quarter, but Baltimore was still able to post 4 sacks. In addition to Lewis' game-saving pick, Ed Reed also snared one earlier in the contest.
Key Stats: New York's Kellen Clemens passed for 176 yards in the fourth quarter, but the Jets were held to only six points.
They Said: "I felt real comfortable being in the game throughout the entire game. I told myself just to go out there and do it like practice. I put a lot of pressure on myself in practice, so that hopefully when I go out here in the games it's a little bit easier. I felt like we were efficient and moved the ball, [and] put some points on the board." - Boller
Week 3 (Sept 23, 2007): Ravens 26 - Cardinals 23
Summary: Matt Stover's 46-yard field as the game ended gave the Ravens a 26-23 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. For the 2nd week in a row, Baltimore leaped to a 20-3 lead and held on for the win against the Arizona Cardinals.
Ravens vs. Cardinals
Steve McNair was stellar in three quarters of action, while Kyle Boller came in to expertly lead a final scoring march. McNair posted a 106.7 QB rating, going 20-of-27 for 198 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore took the 20-3 halftime lead when Stover - who became the fifth-leading scorer in NFL history - hit from 21 and 28 yards, McNair found Derrick Mason for a 13-yard touchdown and Yamon Figurs went for a 75-yard punt return to the end zone. The Ravens built a 15:26 majority in time of possession, thanks to RB Willis McGahee's hard-fought 21 rushes for 98 yards (4.7-yard average), and a defense that pressured Arizona's Matt Leinart and only allowed 61 yards rushing.
Figurs took this punt 75 yards for a touchdown against the Cardinals.
When McNair lost a fumble in his own territory in the third quarter, the Cardinals got a 40-yard field goal from kicker Neil Rackers, and then recovered an onsides kick. But, cornerback Corey Ivy took the ball back when he stripped Larry Firzgerald on the ensuing snap and Stover added a 43-yarder, giving the Ravens what seemed to be a comfortable 23-6 lead.
Concerns about McNair's injured groin called Boller in for relief, while Leinart's ineffectiveness led Arizona to sub Kurt Warner, who used a no-huddle offense to tie the score. Warner hit WR Anquan Boldin for fourth-quarter TD receptions of 5 and 32 yards, and Rackers evened the contest with 1:50 remaining. Boller responded by going a perfect 5-of-5 for 32 yards on the last scoring drive, which Stover capped with his game-winner.
Key Stats: Stover's 46-yard field goal with no time on the clock was the 13th game-winner of his 18-year career. The Cardinals could only muster 61 rushing yards on the day.
They Said: "Do game winners ever get old? No, they don't. But you don't want ever a team, when you're up by 17 to ever have to come back and do that. But if it does happen, you have to be the guy who wants the ball. That's what it came down to." - Stover
Week 4 (Sept 30, 2007): Browns 27 - Ravens 13
Summary: The Cleveland Browns started off with touchdowns on their opening possessions and maintained that lead in a 27-13 win over the Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Baltimore was able to post 418 yards of total offense thanks to 307 passing yards from Steve McNair (career highs of 53 attempts and 34 completions) and Willis McGahee's 136 combined yardage.
Ravens at Browns
Wideout Joshua Cribbs took the opening kickoff 41 yards to Baltimore territory, and Derek Anderson finished the drive with a 2-yard scoring pass to Joe Jurevicius. Four minutes later, McNair threw an interception to cornerback Leigh Bodden, and Anderson served a 78-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards on the next play.
Cleveland was limited to the air, as the Ravens shut down running back Jamal Lewis. Lewis had one 28-yard gallop, but only totaled 64 yards on 23 carries (2.8 yards per rush). The Ravens mustered a touchdown on one out of four trips to the red zone, a 4-yard dart to tight end Quinn Sypniewski in the final quarter for his first-career scoring grab. Matt Stover hit two field goals, but was also wide on two boots. Ed Reed atoned for the 1st miss with a pick in Cleveland territory. That led to Stover's 21-yarder, which was answered by Browns' kicker Phil Dawson.
Yamon Figurs fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and Lewis added a 1-yard touchdown stretch. Each team traded FGs again to make it 27-6 before McNair took the Ravens 85 yards in 13 plays for the fourth-quarter score. Sypniewski was in the game for the injured Todd Heap (hamstring) and Daniel Wilcox (foot), who both left in the third quarter.
Key Stats: Willis McGahee's 104 yards on the ground was the first time he's passed the century mark in a Ravens uniform. In his first meeting against his former team, Jamal Lewis was stonewalled by the Ravens front for only 64 yards on 23 carries.
They Said: "You talk about a classic battle. That's one you appreciate. Every time I touched him, I said, 'It's just me, Lew.' There is a warrior in Jamal. That's what you appreciate when you play a former teammate and someone you won a Super Bowl with. You appreciate that a warrior is going against a warrior." - Ray Lewis