Field holds up, but so do errors by offense Mistake-prone Testaverde is a cause for concern

August 18, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The big winner at Memorial Stadium last night was the new high-tech field.

The turf, called SportGrass, is a natural grass field planted on a synthetic surface below the field to make it better able to withstand the elements.

This is the first stadium to use the new technology and it passed its first test when it withstood a near-monsoon in the first quarter.

The problem for the Ravens is that they weren't as good as their field in a 17-15 loss to Green Bay.

The game was a familiar story for the Ravens in this exhibition season. Their defense did well against a team that has a real shot at the Super Bowl, but the offense kept tripping over its own feet.

The first-string defense gave up a 10-play, 93-yard touchdown drive on the Packers' first possession, but then blanked quarterback quarterback Brett Favre the rest of the first half. The second string gave up Favre's other touchdown in the third period.

The first-string defense also forced Favre into three uncharacteristic mistakes in the second period by keeping him on the run.

The first time, he kept backpedaling from his 19 on third-and-13 instead of taking a sack and heaved the ball just before he stepped in the end zone.

It was ruled a safety, a call proven wrong by TV replays.

Two other times when the defense forced Favre to scramble, he made mistakes. He threw the ball when the offensive linemen thought he was going to run and were illegally downfield.

He also threw once across the grain to his right after scrambling to his left, which is risky even though he completed it.

If the defense keeps playing that well in the regular season, the Ravens will be a competitive team.

The problem, though, may be scoring points because the first-string offense sputtered throughout the first half.

Said coach Ted Marchibroda: "I think we made more mistakes this week than what we did the two previous weeks."

The running game was stifled again. Leroy Hoard gained only 23 yards in 11 carries in the first half. Although Earnest Byner had 37 yards in six carries, 28 of them came on a draw play.

On top of that, the first-string offense would have had first downs inside the Packers' 20 on three different drives if they hadn't made mistakes. They wound up with nothing to show for those three possessions.

Orlando Brown wiped out a Vinny Testaverde third-down completion to the 18 when he was offsides on the first drive. James Roe caught a pass on the next series near the goal line, but it was nullified because he had stepped out of bounds before the catch.

In the second period, Derrick Alexander couldn't hold onto a pass inside the Packers' 10.

On the next play, Testaverde threw a pass from the Packers' 19 right at George Koonce, who intercepted it.

It was his second turnover of the game -- he fumbled earlier when he should have taken a sack -- and his fourth in two games. Combine Testaverde's mistakes with the other miscues and you have the formula for the defeat.

The player who stood out on offense was Ray Ethridge, who may have won himself a spot on the roster with five catches.

Testaverde's inconsistent play has to be the team's biggest worry. This has been the pattern of Testaverde's mistake-prone career since he was the No. 1 pick in 1987.

The coaching of Marchibroda and Don Strock was supposed to change all that, but it may not possible to coach the right instincts.

Marchibroda, trying to boost Testaverde's confidence, refused to criticize him. "It's not a concern, Vinny's playing well," Marchibroda said. "Very few guys have 16 great games."

Testaverde was more candid. He conceded of the interception, "I just couldn't get it high enough. It was a bad throw. I believe he [Frank Hartley] would have walked in the end zone if I could have gotten it over [Koonce's] head."

If the Ravens are to have a good season, Testaverde is going to start having to make those throws.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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