Game plan comes up short on giving Bam the ball

November 04, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

If you want to call his number, it's 33.

If you want to call his name, just listen to the crowd at Memorial Stadium.

"Bam! Bam!" the fans chanted yesterday.

Evidently, Ted Marchibroda didn't hear them.

He still needs to introduce himself to Bam Morris.

A 21-3 lead at halftime, and the Ravens' coach refused to call off the no-huddle offense. A 21-3 lead at halftime, and he got carried away.

Yo, Ted, our advice was to use the no-huddle early, not the entire game.

A 21-3 lead at halftime, and you run the ball until the opponent puts eight men up front and dares you to throw.

A 21-3 lead at halftime, and you turn the game over to a 245-pound wrecking ball, rather than open the third quarter with eight straight passes.

Marchibroda was critical of his players after yesterday's 24-21 loss to Cincinnati -- "they don't give it their best shot in the second half and this is what happens" -- but this game was lost on the sidelines as much as on the field.

The Ravens are so accustomed to playing from behind, they did it even after they went ahead. As quarterback Vinny Testaverde put it, "I don't think we knew how to handle it as an offense."

Testaverde didn't -- he reverted to Bad Vinny yesterday, throwing four interceptions, two into the end zone. He also said he was mostly responsible for the play-calling out of the no-huddle.

A 21-3 lead at halftime, and the Ravens had the ball for only eight of the final 30 minutes. A 21-3 lead at halftime, and they ran the ball only six times in the second half.

"I was ready to run," Morris said. "I even told my coach [running backs coach Al Lavan] I was ready to run. But my coach is not the guy calling the plays."

No, that task belongs to Marchibroda, Testaverde and assistant coaches Mike Sheppard and Kirk Ferentz. Whoever was responsible, Morris finished with only 11 carries, and Earnest Byner only 12 -- all of Byner's coming in the first half.

"There's enough blame to go around," Marchibroda said, but we're not going to put this on Vinny, or beleaguered cornerback DeRon Jenkins or even a defense that allowed 268 yards in the second half.

Marchibroda's confidence in Testaverde is a major reason for the quarterback's turnaround this season. But just as a coach needs to know when to set a player free, he needs to know when to pull him back.

The second half was that time.

Testaverde was throwing into coverage too often, apparently believing he was invincible. By going to a standard huddle, Marchibroda could have assumed control of the play-calling, and saved Vinny from himself.

Why didn't he?

"Everything was going for us," Marchibroda said. "But you can't have dropped passes, and you can't have penalties, and expect to win a ballgame."

Oh, the Ravens had numerous drops, including one by Derrick Alexander in the end zone on the play before Testaverde's fourth interception. They also committed all seven of their penalties in the second half.

But back to the play-calling.

Marchibroda said he first grew concerned when the Bengals closed to 21-10 after the Ravens botched their first possession after halftime. But on the next series, the offense appeared to regain command.

On third-and-10, Testaverde completed a 13-yard pass to Floyd Turner. Then Morris ran three straight times for 19 yards, the cries of "Bam!" echoing through the stadium again.

The fans understand Morris' importance -- his name is the first one they've chanted -- but on second-and-one from their own 45, the Ravens got greedy. Testaverde under-threw Michael Jackson down the left sideline, and got intercepted.

Morris threw a fit on the sideline, gesturing angrily, hollering at Lavan, waving a towel in disgust. The Bengals proceeded to march for another touchdown, and pulled within 21-18 on a two-point conversion.

How frustrated was Morris?

"Very frustrated," he said. "But I have no control of that, so it really doesn't matter. The coaches decide what they think is best for the team. I'm with 'em."

Give Morris credit for playing the diplomat, and Testaverde credit for taking responsibility -- "all the interceptions were my fault," he said. The Ravens talked nice. But the loss must have been grating, especially to the offensive line.

What's the best way to demoralize an opponent when you've got a big lead? By running, and running, and running some more. The Ravens' line is their strength. Morris and tight end Eric Green make their running game even stronger.

"The way we've been blocking all year, there's never a time when we don't feel we can run the ball," center Wally Williams said. "I can't imagine a game where as a unit we thought we couldn't run the ball.

"When Bam's in there, we get it going. When Earnest Byner's in there, we get it going. It really doesn't matter. We have to do maybe a little bit more running, I don't know."

A 21-3 lead at halftime, and they should have done a lot more. A 21-3 lead at halftime, and the coach should have started chanting the same name as the crowd.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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