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McNair rallies Ravens to win over Chargers

Oct 1, 2006 - 8:57 PM BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- Steve McNair saved his best for last again.

After struggling most of the day, McNair directed a game-winning drive in the final minutes for the second straight week as the Baltimore Ravens edged the San Diego Chargers, 16-13, in a battle of first-place teams.

Acquired from Tennessee in June to provide veteran leadership at quarterback, McNair has delivered in the clutch for the Ravens, who are 4-0 for the first time in their history.

"I just want to help the team win any way I can," McNair said. "When you have a defense like ours it will keep you in a lot of games and then we made some big offensive plays at the end."

Baltimore trailed 13-9 with 3:05 left when McNair engineered a six-play, 60-yard drive, capping it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Heap with 34 seconds remaining.

The longest play in the drive was a 17-yard pass to Mark Clayton to the San Diego 35. McNair then scrambled for 12 yards and found Clayton again for a 13-yard pass to the 10.

Two plays later, McNair dumped a short pass to Heap, who caught it at the 5 and bulled into the end zone.

"It was one of the second or third reads so Steve made a great play," Heap said. "Because I switched my route up, a cornerback was kind of falling off and kind of waiting for me to get into the end zone. It was more of a hitch route so I sat up in front and I saw Steve's eyes and he looked at me and from then on I knew to take off and cut in front of the defender."

Before the final drive, McNair had passed for just 115 yards with two interceptions.

"We showed a lot of character in a 15-round boxing match," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Last week, McNair struggled as well before engineering a final drive that led to Matt Stover's 52-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining in a 15-14 victory at Cleveland.

"We have a quarterback that can win games late," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "That's why we brought him here."

Lewis, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, recorded 14 tackles, one less than fellow linebacker Bart Scott.

San Diego's Shawne Merriman, the reigning AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, had two tackles, one sack and two quarterback pressures.

"Any time you lose it's disappointing," Merriman said. "We gotta learn how to finish games. You can play 55 minutes of football, but the last five minutes, you've got to finish it off. Until we do that, we're not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish."

The game matched two of the AFC's best defenses and the Chargers (2-1) had the upper hand before McNair's final drive. Not only did the Chargers intercept McNair twice, but they also limited Jamal Lewis to 34 yards on 15 carries.

Meanwhile, LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 98 yards on 27 carries and Michael Turner added another 46 yards on just seven carries against the Ravens, who had allowed a total of 20 points in their first three games.

Philip Rivers, who is in his first season as a starter, completed 4-of-5 passes for 60 yards on San Diego's first drive. He hit tight end Antonio Gates with a 13-yard pass on a 3rd-and-13 before lofting a 31-yard touchdown down the right sideline to Malcolm Floyd 4:39 into the game.

But Rivers was picked off by Scott, the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month, on the Chargers' next possession. Scott returned the interception 24 yards to the San Diego 22.

"(Antonio) Gates ran a double move and my responsibility is not to bite," Scott said. "They were expecting me to bite on the out cut. My man went away and I had the belief that Adalius (Thomas) would take his out away, so I got depth and he (Rivers) he threw it right at me."

Five plays later, McNair hit tight end Daniel Wilcox with a five-yard touchdown with 5:28 left in the first quarter.

"Steve is a cool cat, he has that air about him," Wilcox said. "All the guys just pull together and work for him."

Nate Kaeding kicked a 34-yard field goal nine seconds into the second quarter and converted a career-high 54-yarder with 1:51 left in the half to give the Chargers a 13-7 lead.

However, Kaeding was wide right on a 40-yard attempt in the third quarter and a botched hold spoiled a 52-yard try in the fourth quarter.

Rookie punter Sam Koch pinned the Chargers back at their own with a 48-yard punt with 5:29 left in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back false start penalties backed up the Chargers to the 2.

The Chargers were then called for an illegal man downfield when Mike Scifres attempted to punt out of his own end zone. Scifres was run into by Ed Reed, who was attempting to block the punt, but no penalty was called on Reed because of the illegal man downfield infraction.

A hobbled Scifres didn't try to punt again. Instead, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer called for him to take a safety with 3:12 left, pulling the Ravens within 13-9.

"All in all, we played toe-to-toe with a good football team at their place and they came out on top at the end," Schottenheimer said.

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