Winning fitting the bill for receiver Evans
OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Enough time had passed for Lee Evans to forget what it felt like to win.
He spent seven seasons with the Buffalo Bills. His rookie year, they won nine games, but they didn’t have another winning season while he was there.
“We just couldn’t get over the little hump,’’ he said.
To make it worse, the Bills had 15 straight losses to the Patriots in his time as a Bill.
He wondered if he’d reach the playoffs or for that matter be a part of a winning season again.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “You challenge everything. But at the end of the day, when you get an opportunity, you’ve got to just try to win.’’
The opportunity came this season when he signed with the Ravens, leaving behind the organization he started with, but also leaving behind the losing.
“It’s tough,’’ he said. “It’s not an easy transition.’’
An early-season ankle injury didn’t make it any easier. He missed seven straight games and there were questions about whether the 30-year-old receiver would need surgery. He refused, and returned for the last seven games, but was quiet. He caught four balls all season for 74 yards, never sniffing the end zone.
“It’s been an unbelievable season for me, meaning that it’s just been an atypical season,’’ he said. “It’s been kind of a ride that I’ve never been on before. At the same time, as a pro, if you play in this game long enough, you’ll run into different things that you have to handle. So I’m just happy, I’m blessed and trying to take advantage of being in this place right now.’’
Last week against the Texans, he caught a 30-yard pass and now that he’s got his first taste of the postseason, he has a sense that he’s ready to make up for lost time.
“This is what it’s all about,’’ Evans said. “As you play, you understand how rare these opportunities are. Many people haven’t been in this situation before. So you’ve got to try to take advantage of it. It’s a lot of work, but at the same time this is what it’s all about so you’ve also got to try to enjoy it.’’
A careful approach
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown more postseason interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6), including three his rookie season in the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh. He realizes he’ll have to be careful with the football against a Patriots defense that intercepted 23 passes during the regular season.
“They play the ball well,’’ Flacco said. “When they get their shot, they make the catch. So, they have created some turnovers. Even though they’ve let up a good amount of yards, they haven’t let up a ton of points. I think it’s because they’ve been able to create those turnovers. Some of that probably comes from the fact that their offense has scored a lot of points, and other offenses had to throw the ball on them.’’
Another key, he said will be using weapons like running back Ray Rice to sustain drives.
“These guys are a defense that prepares and doesn’t like to give up those types of things,’’ Flacco said. “They make you go the long way, and make you dump the ball off and do all those things. So, we’re going to have to be patient if they do give us a shot. It’s going to be our job, in this type of game, to hit them the few times that we do get a shot.’’
Picked for success
Entering the season, cornerback Lardarius Webb had all of two interceptions in two seasons. He led the Ravens with five this year and picked off two more last week against the Texans.
If the game comes down to a turnover battle, Webb will likely be a factor.
“I just think Lardarius just gets better all the time,’’ coach John Harbaugh said. “Like every player, there are ups and downs, and they get attacked and things like that.
“But, he’s becoming a really solid, fundamentally sound corner to go with his great talent. And that’s a great combination. To me, that’s what makes for a potentially great football player.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.