Ravens' air attack takes a pass on effectiveness OILERS 29, RAVENS 13

From the Sidelines

September 16, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

HOUSTON -- The late Woody Hayes, who believed in a "3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" running offense at Ohio State, used to say that three things could happen when you pass and two of them are bad.

That describes the Ravens' passing attack in their 29-13 loss to the Houston Oilers at the Astrodome yesterday.

When they passed, bad things tended to happen.

The Oilers intercepted Vinny Testaverde twice on the Ravens' first three series -- although the first one wasn't his fault -- and cashed them into quick touchdowns that set the tone for the game.

They also picked off two in the fourth quarter, but one of them didn't count because it was on a two-point conversion attempt.

Even one of Testaverde's completions on the final play of the first half hurt them because it ran out the clock and foiled a field-goal attempt.

The result was the second straight road loss for the Ravens, who don't appear good enough to challenge for the crown in what was supposed to be a weak AFC Central Division.

A look at the highlights and -- mostly -- lowlights:

Vinny file: This was the kind of vintage Vinny performance that got him run out of Tampa Bay. His first interception bounced off Derrick Alexander's chest, but on the other two he locked onto the receivers so the defensive backs could read his eyes. He said he didn't see Marcus Robertson on the second interception, but telegraphing a pass is a rookie mistake being made by a 10-year veteran.

Gaffe: If there was one play that summed up the Ravens' futility, it came on the final play of the first half when the Ravens were on the Oilers' 34 with 15 seconds left and no timeouts. They were within range of a 51-yard field-goal attempt, but they wanted to get closer. But both Testaverde and Alexander botched the play. Alexander didn't get close enough to the sideline and Testaverde threw it to him anyway. Alexander caught the ball and was tackled inbounds before time expired.

Turning point: After the Oilers' second interception, they faced third-and-five at the Ravens' 18. The Ravens needed to make a statement and force the Oilers to take a field goal to make it 10-0 instead of 14-0. But Willie Davis caught a touchdown pass over Antonio Langham, who had his back to the play. If Langham had turned around, he might have had a shot at it.

Setting the tone: On the first two plays of the game -- including the opening kickoff -- Ed Sutter and Jeff Blackshear were called for holding. The careless play was a sign the Ravens' heads weren't in the game and led to a third-and-nine play at the Ravens' 20 that resulted in the Oilers' first interception.

Heads-up play: It was symbolic of the Ravens' inept showing that one of their best plays gave the Oilers' two points. When Brian Kinchen snapped a punt attempt over the head of former Oiler Greg Montgomery near the Ravens' goal line, Montgomery alertly threw the ball out of the end zone for a safety, rather than give the Oilers field position for a possible touchdown.

Down for the count: When Ronnie Harmon scored on a 2-yard touchdown run in the third period, former Maryland and Redskins tight end Frank Wycheck bowled over middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Arms upraised, Lewis fell on his back as if he had just gotten a right from Mike Tyson. It was an example of the Oilers' physical domination.

Mistake: Late in the second quarter, Earnest Hunter, who first thought the ball was going out of bounds, simply looked at a kickoff when it bounced in play until Jermaine Lewis fell on it at the 4-yard line. The lost yardage proved costly when the Ravens advanced to the Houston 25 before running out of time.

Lack of concentration: On a third-and-four play at the Houston 49 on the Oilers' first series, defensive tackle Dan Footman jumped offsides to give the Oilers a first down.

On top of his game: Chris Chandler is just supposed to be warming the Oilers' quarterback chair until Steve McNair matures. But he's playing extremely well and passed for two touchdowns and didn't throw an interception. When McNair does become the starter in a year or so, the Ravens should consider signing Chandler. He's only 30.

Turnover battle: One of the oldest cliches in football is that the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. The Ravens proved how true it was yesterday. They turned the ball over three times and the Oilers didn't turn it over. That was the story.

Practice, practice: Another favorite football cliche is that you play the way you practice. The Ravens proved that's not always true because they said they practiced well all week, but then laid an egg.

Running game: Earnest Byner, who got only 73 yards in 22 carries the first two games, continued on that same pace with 68 yards in 19 carries. By contrast, Eddie George and Rodney Thomas combined for 106 yards on 27 carries for the Oilers.

Looking ahead: The reeling Ravens couldn't pick a better time for a bye as they try to regroup. It also helps they have the New Orleans Saints at home in two weeks. But until they can win on the road in their division, they can't be taken seriously.

Pub Date: 9/16/96

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