Marchibroda links eras, then Ravens with victory

September 02, 1996|By John Eisenberg

It was a sunny day of noise and emotion that kept coming back around to one man.

Ted Marchibroda gave a game ball to each of the Ravens after they beat the Oakland Raiders yesterday at Memorial Stadium, but the players should have returned the balls to their coach.

Not because they didn't deserve them; they did, after playing with such heart and rallying to win.

But the day belonged to Marchibroda.

He was the only real link between the Colts and Ravens, the centerpiece of the pre-game ceremony connecting the city's football past and present.

And then, in the end, he was the difference between winning and losing.

If he hadn't called for the no-huddle offense in the third quarter, the Ravens would be 0-1 today.

"It probably doesn't get much better than this," Marchibroda said after the Ravens' 19-14 victory. "It's a shame we have to play 15 more."

It is, indeed, because it will be impossible to recreate the circumstances that made yesterday's victory so special.

Only once will the Ravens play their first game, and only once will a proud, old pro football city celebrate the unbridled joy of ending 13 years of silence.

Marchibroda understood the significance better than anyone else in the Ravens' organization. He had coached the Colts in the '70s. He had known the glorious past. And now, he knew what a day this was for the city.

Before the kickoff, 40 old Colts were introduced and given Ravens jackets. They saw Marchibroda and swarmed him, wishing him good luck and providing the thread connecting the past to the present.

Johnny Unitas started it, and then Lydell Mitchell came over, and Stan White came over, and then Marchibroda was besieged with handshakes and hugs. The sellout crowd roared.

Art Modell couldn't understand and the Ravens players couldn't understand, but the fans could. And Marchibroda could.

"That was a wonderful moment," he said. "To have those names from the past on the field just brought home everything that had happened here."

What did he say to Unitas?

"That it was good to see him," Marchibroda said, "and that I sure wished he could suit up and play."

No doubt. Because as badly as Marchibroda wants to win every game, he desperately wanted this one.

To say he had become obsessed with beating the Raiders would be, well, barely overstating the case.

"My feeling was just that we had to win," he said. "Being the first game in franchise history, after the city had gone 12 years without a team, to lose really would have ruined all the joy and celebration around town."

A coach is a coach is a coach; they don't see in shades of colors, they see in black and white, wins and losses, results.

Marchibroda began planning for the Raiders from the start of training camp.

"That was always our focus," tight end Brian Kinchen said. "We talked about the Raiders every day."

It showed when the Ravens took a 7-0 lead, but then they flattened out in the second quarter and found themselves down at halftime, 14-7.

After the offense fell apart early in the third quarter, with the line unable to blunt Raiders blitzes or open running holes, Marchibroda blew up. He gathered the offense around him on the bench and raged for more than a minute. An assistant had to calm him down afterward.

"I'd never seen the little man like that," offensive tackle Tony Jones said. "He was hot, very hot. And you have to respect that. It caught my attention."

Said center Steve Everitt: "Ted was real mad. He told us we weren't playing like we could play, we were being timid. We deserved it. It was a wake-up call."

The next time the Ravens had the ball, Marchibroda called for the no-huddle. They had planned to use it earlier, but they had moved the ball well at first and then had poor field position.

When they finally went to it midway through the third quarter, trailing by a touchdown, the game changed immediately and permanently.

The Raiders' defensive line stopped dominating. The Ravens began moving the ball again.

"They couldn't get the right personnel in the game," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said, "so they couldn't run their blitz packages. And I think they got a little tired."

Everitt said: "We started moving the ball, and they couldn't get their players on and off the field. It just fed off itself."

The Ravens dominated the last 25 minutes with three scoring drives worth 12 points.

It helped that the Raiders were offside on every other play, or so it seemed, and that the Ravens defense kept the Raiders offense from crossing the 50-yard line in the second half.

Still, going to the no-huddle was the decisive move of the game.

"Did it have a lot to do with the win?" someone asked Marchibroda after the game.

"I would have to say so," he said.

He had showered, dressed and put on a suit, and perspiration was still gathered on his forehead. The locker room was loud and rowdy around him, a winning locker room on a special day.

"The link from the past to the present made this a special day," he said, "and then winning the game made the day, period."

A great day for the city, above all else.

But also a great day for the coach.

Pub Date: 9/02/96

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