Oilers get snub from fans, media 20,082 turnout creates scrimmage-like setting

Ravens Notebook

Oilers 29, Ravens 13

September 16, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino | Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

HOUSTON -- From the local newspapers to the laid-back atmosphere of the Astrodome, the apathy surrounding the Oilers, bound for Nashville, Tenn., was palpable yesterday.

The NFL story on the front page of yesterday's Houston Chronicle sports section featured Deion Sanders and his exploits as a two-way player with the Dallas Cowboys. Coverage of the Oilers was on page 23.

The mostly lifeless crowd of 20,082 seemed to support the media's blase view of the city's soon-to-be-departed team. From a crowd standpoint, the game had the feel of a scrimmage, a Canadian Football League game at best. You could hear some of the signal calls from each quarterback. It wasn't hard to pick out the catcalls of individual fans.

There was probably more excitement here in the early hours of Saturday morning, when Houston firefighters responded to a 2: 30 a.m. fire in the Astrodome's third-level offices. The fire, which was extinguished within a few minutes, caused about $20,000 in damage.

Houston police shot the suspected arsonist on Saturday night, after he allegedly set two more fires in the city.

Adams: Ravens no draw

Oilers owner Bud Adams had a novel explanation for the lowest turnout in Astrodome history.

He blamed the Ravens, noting that 27,725 attended the opener because a lot of Kansas City fans showed up to root for the Chiefs.

"If it had been the Cleveland Browns, it would have been a different story," Adams said. "People don't know who the Baltimore Ravens are. We had a rivalry with the Browns since 1969. The Baltimore Ravens don't mean too much to too many people."

Ravens owner Art Modell, who didn't go to last week's game in Pittsburgh, was in attendance yesterday, but Adams said he and Modell didn't meet.

Bound to be missed

Earnest Hunter said the reason he didn't catch the kickoff to begin the Ravens' last series of the first half was because he expected the ball to go out of bounds.

"One thing I have learned is to not run hard under those low kicks because the first bounce is unpredictable," said Hunter. "Even when the ball bounced, it still looked like it was going out of bounds."

Hoard ends up sitting

Running back Leroy Hoard did not have a carry and was surprised by his lack of playing time. Hoard played well against the Steelers last week, rushing for 54 yards on 13 carries.

"I guess that's the way it's going to go," Hoard said. "As long as Earnest [Byner] is healthy, then he's going to play most of the time and I'm going to watch."

Questions without answers

Offensive tackle Tony Jones said that heading into the bye week, the Ravens have to decide in which direction they're going.

"This will be a good week for everybody to make up their minds about what kind of team we want to have. Are we going to be in the top of the AFC or the bottom? We've got a heck of a team. just making too many mistakes.

"We can beat Houston. Our offensive line could have beaten on them, been physical, run the ball with a mixture of run and pass. I think it could have been a different outcome."

Jones said he was puzzled that the team played poorly after practicing well.

"I don't know. That might be a myth [that teams play as they practice]," he said. "I thought we were well prepared to play. We couldn't get it done. For what reason? That's another good question."

Keeping it to himself

Byner didn't want to go public with his explanation of why the team is losing.

When Byner was asked the difference between the Ravens and the 1991 Washington Redskins Super Bowl team he played on, he said, "It's different. I'm not going to say publicly. I'm not saying anything. I'm not going to say anything that could possibly be divisive."

Time runs out on Ravens

The Ravens missed a chance to try a field goal at the end of the first half, when wide receiver Derrick Alexander couldn't get out of bounds and was tackled at the Houston 25 as time ran out.

"Had he worked out to the sideline more, he would have gotten out of bounds," Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. "We got caught this time because we hadn't been [in that situation] before. Next time, he knows he brings it back toward the sideline and gets out of bounds."

Said Alexander: "It wasn't a sideline play. I just ended up getting the ball."

Testaverde is easy read

The Oilers' defensive backs said they were able to take advantage of Testaverde.

Marcus Robertson, who made the second of three Oilers interceptions, said, "I was reading his eyes. It came right to me. When he gets a little antsy, he throws off his back foot."

Linebacker Micheal Barrow said coach Jeff Fisher showed the team videotape of Testaverde on Saturday night.

"Coach pointed out that if we'd get pressure on this guy, he'd throw interceptions," Barrow said.

Running low on bodies

When the NFL instituted a 53-man active roster, but allowed only 46 players to suit up for each game, the idea was that each team would have 46 healthy players -- including a third quarterback -- able to play. It's rare that a team has seven players who can't play.

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