Taking a Giant step forward Ravens linemen hold their ground and then some in trench triumph

September 01, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Ravens called it a statement game, and the team may have left a favorable impression on the rest of the NFL and the country.

If there were any residual effects from the team's move from Cleveland to Baltimore last year, they may have been buried at the same time the Ravens defeated the New York Giants, 37-27, before 39,799 at Giants Stadium on Aug. 10.

Except for a shoddy second quarter, these hardly looked like the Cleveland Browns of a year ago that went 5-11 and lost eight of their last nine games.

This team plays gritty defense and has a balanced offense, including a running game. Yes, a running game. And for all those who expected a hostile crowd here, there were no anti-Modell signs, no Browns Backers and only one rebel sometimes without a clue (Ravens center Steve Everitt) wearing a Browns bandanna.

The only boos heard at Giants Stadium were for the Giants, who could be the worst team in the NFL. Or that honor could go to their little sister, the Jets. It's a New York thing.

"We came out and did what we wanted to do," said Ravens left offensive tackle Tony Jones. "We controlled the ball and we were very physical. This was a challenge for us and we met it head on. This game was a real confidence builder."

Said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda: "I told our guys that this was on national television and our first road game, so let's try to get the first one under our belts with a win. Overall, it was a good team victory."

This wasn't much of a contest as the Ravens had a 34-13 lead with 5: 02 left in the third quarter. The Ravens had 427 yards of offense compared to 241 for the Giants. The Ravens had 29 first downs to 12 for New York. The Ravens had nearly a 21-minute advantage in time of possession, and almost doubled the Giants in total plays, 81-49.

But Marchibroda knew this was only the Giants, who played without starting quarterback Dave Brown, running back Tyrone Wheatley and played with an inexperienced offensive line.

"Overall, our club played well, but we have a long way to go," said Marchibroda, whose team is 2-0 in the preseason. "We have to polish up some things, but we'll be all right if we keep getting better every week like we did today."

A week earlier, the Ravens had only 44 yards rushing against the Philadelphia Eagles. In this game, they had 177. Ravens running back Earnest Byner had 47 and Earnest Hunter had 40. Leroy Hoard had 37, including 34 in the team's first drive, and the team scored on touchdown runs of 16 and 3 yards.

What happened?

"We audible-ized a little more compared to last week and the big guys up front dominated," said Hunter.

And then there is the Jonathan Ogden factor. The rookie and No. 1 draft pick from UCLA is making the transition from college tackle to pro guard.

"I think my run blocking was much better this week," said Ogden. "The hardest part of the switch is that guys are now coming straight into me, and before I just had to contain them. I've only been at guard for a month, so I think I'll be all right."

The Ravens' defense seems OK, too. Defensive ends Rob vTC Burnett and Anthony Pleasant and defensive tackles Tim Goad and Dan Footman controlled the line of scrimmage, especially Pleasant in the first quarter. The Giants had only one first down in the first half.

"The defense has played two really good games, but we all know this is preseason," said Goad. "But I like the progress we're making."

The Ravens controlled the line of scrimmage, which was pleasing to Marchibroda, but there were some signs of concern.

Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde completed 16 of 25 passes for 179

yards and a touchdown, but made two turnovers. He fumbled when he should have just taken a sack with 7: 05 left in the half, and he under-threw Calvin Williams on a pass down the middle of the field that was picked off at the Giants' 30 nearly two minutes later.

Marchibroda didn't seem concerned, even though Testaverde has the label of being inconsistent.

"On the interception, he went to the right guy and the receiver [Williams] could have helped him out a little bit," Marchibroda said. "And he under-threw it a little bit. But he went to the right guy. That's the important thing at this point. We just did not totally execute the play."

The Ravens didn't execute on special teams very well either. They allowed Amani Toomer to return a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown with 11: 27 left in the half to pull the Giants within 12-7 as the Ravens' outside guys became a little too relaxed while converging on Toomer.

The Ravens almost had two punts blocked, the second one resulting in an ugly pass attempt from punter Greg Montgomery to safety Bennie Thompson with 9: 38 left in the second quarter.

The Ravens made amends as Ray Ethridge returned a punt 84 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 5: 02 left in the third quarter to push the Ravens ahead 34-13, but special teams coach Scott O'Brien wasn't real happy.

"We'll have to go back, take a look at the film, correct our mistakes so when they come up again, we'll be able to handle them," said O'Brien. "I don't think you're ever happy. You never want to give up the big play. We want to control field position and if you don't, you really don't enjoy the game."

But for the most part, the Ravens were happy yesterday. Even when they allowed the Giants to take the lead 13-12 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Maddox to Thomas Lewis with 8: 52 left in the half, the Ravens scored on a 9-yard slant-in from Testaverde to receiver Michael Jackson with 12 seconds left.

"We lost our poise for a brief period of time, but we got it back and played good football. Really," said Marchibroda.

Testaverde said: "We scored a touchdown right at the end of the half there and the young guys played well. Most of all the running game was improved over a week ago and that was what we were looking for."

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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