A week after the offense gave the season opener away with turnovers, the Ravens defense needed a late Ray Lewis interception in the end zone to avoid a dramatic fourth-quarter collapse and escape with a 20-13 victory over the New York Jets before an anxious 71,246 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, who was replacing an injured Chad Pennington, marched the Jets to the Ravens' 7-yard line before his final pass went off the outstretched hands of Justin McCareins in the end zone and fell into the arms of Lewis.
In the end, only three miscues by the Jets around the goal line (two drops by McCareins and a low throw by Clemens) allowed the Ravens to even their record at 1-1.
"Nothing's ever easy for us," said Lewis, who played with strained triceps in his right arm. "I've learned that when you get someone down, you have to put them away. But the bottom line is we won. No ifs, ands or buts. We won."
For three quarters, the Ravens dominated the Jets behind their usually relentless defense and the inspired play of backup quarterback Kyle Boller, who replaced an injured Steve McNair (sore groin) for his first start in 20 months.
But the Ravens nearly melted down once tight end Chris Baker scored a 3-yard touchdown to close the Jets to 20-13 with 3:12 left in the game.
After the Ravens barely recovered an onside kick, coach Brian Billick decided to pass the ball on first down instead of running it, which would have used up clock and forced the Jets to call timeouts.
On the questionable play call - which followed a series of ones from last week - Boller's pass was incomplete to receiver Demetrius Williams, who leapt high on the sideline, came down hard and bruised his arm. The Ravens subsequently punted, giving the ball back to New York after using 34 seconds of the clock.
"We took a shot," Billick said.
The Jets capitalized on the first play, when Jerricho Cotchery broke free for a 50-yard catch after Ravens safety Ed Reed failed to wrap him up 14 yards downfield.
After the two-minute warning, a wide-open McCareins dropped a pass 7 yards from the end zone. But with the Jets facing a third-and-16, Ravens defensive back Gerome Sapp was called for holding, giving New York a first down at the Ravens' 31.
Clemens then one-hopped a throw to a wide-open Laveranues Coles, who had turned around safety Dawan Landry with a move, around the goal line. Coles later caught a 24-yard pass to get the Jets to the Ravens' 7, but New York couldn't convert.
On second-and-goal, Clemens' pass deflected off McCareins' hands, and Lewis intercepted it to preserve the win with 1:03 remaining in the game.
"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."
For the first three quarters, the Ravens' defense held the Jets to 107 total yards and a field goal. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens allowed 197 yards and 10 points.
"We can't help teams beat us," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Down the stretch, we have to play fundamental football. If we do that, we'll be all right."
In a strange role reversal, the Ravens' defense can learn from their offense, which bounced back from six turnovers in the season opener.