October 27, 2009

1996: Vinny Testaverde Passes for Ravens Record 429 Yards

Vinny Testaverde encountered plenty of ups and downs during his long career as an NFL quarterback. Highly touted as the Heisman Trophy-winning first overall draft choice of Tampa Bay in 1987, he suffered through six difficult seasons with the Buccaneers before moving on to the Cleveland Browns in 1993. When the Browns franchise became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 (leaving the team name and history behind), Testaverde moved along with them as the starting QB.

On October 27, 1996 Testaverde became the first 400-yard passer for the Ravens in a Week 9 matchup at Memorial Stadium against the visiting St. Louis Rams. He filled the air with passes in the 37-31 overtime win, completing 31 of 51 throws for 429 yards. Three of the passes went for TDs and two were intercepted.

Baltimore was down 13-0 in the second quarter before Testaverde threw his first TD pass of the day, 27 yards to WR Floyd Turner. The extra point attempt failed, and in the third quarter Todd Lyght of the Rams intercepted a Testaverde pass and returned it 25 yards for a score. However, the Ravens climbed back into the game, with Matt Stover kicking a 50-yard field goal and RB Bam Morris reaching the end zone on a three-yard run that was followed by a successful Testaverde-to-WR Derrick Alexander two-point conversion. The gap was now closed to 20-17.

The Rams led off the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 36-yard Chip Lohmiller field goal, after which Testaverde passed the Ravens into the lead for the first time with his second TD toss of the game, 13 yards to Alexander for a 24-23 lead. Bam Morris scored another running touchdown to put Baltimore ahead, 31-23, but the Rams tied the game with two runs by RB Harold Green – one for a one-yard touchdown and another for a two-point PAT.

Fittingly, it was a Testaverde touchdown pass that won the game in overtime for the Ravens, as he hit WR Michael Jackson for a 22-yard score.

It was an exciting win for the Ravens – and the only one during a 1-7 midseason stretch on the way to a 4-12 overall record. However, Testaverde ended up with career highs in passing yards (4177) and TD passes (33), both of which remain franchise records.

Vinny Testaverde went on to play for the Jets, Cowboys, Patriots, and Panthers before finally calling it a career at age 44 following the 2007 season. Plagued by inconsistency, he never achieved the greatness that was anticipated when he came into the league with the Buccaneers. However, as the game against the Rams proved, over the course of 21 seasons he was capable of delivering big performances.