Swollen heads help lead shrink, exposing need for new attitude

From the Sidelines

November 04, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have made one basic mistake from the day they arrived in Baltimore.

They think they're a better team than they really are. That attitude cost them yesterday when they took a 21-3 halftime lead over the Cincinnati Bengals and thought they were good enough to sleepwalk their way through the second half and still escape with a victory. After all, Denver did it two weeks ago against the Ravens when it gave away a 21-3 lead and still won, 45-34.

They found out they're not good enough to do that and blew a 24-21 game to the Bengals while losing for the first time when they've been favored.

"I guess we [thought] we were a Super Bowl team or something because it was 30 minutes and [we thought] the game was over," safety Eric Turner said.

This attitude started in the off-season with coach Ted Marchibroda saying they were closer to the 11-5 team of 1994 than the 5-11 team of 1995.

He overlooked the fact they lost to Jacksonville at home last year before the move was announced and beat only two winning teams in 1994.

Maybe this will be a wake-up call to the whole organization that this team needs an overhaul -- starting with a change of attitude.

A look at the highlights and lowlights of the loss that dropped the Ravens to 3-6 and likely doomed them to a losing season.

Turning point: Leading 21-10, the Ravens moved to their 45 on runs of 5, 5 and 9 yards by Bam Morris on their second second-half possession. Facing second-and-one, the Ravens went for the quick strike. It's not a bad idea. It's supposed to be a free play because they can make it on third down. But Vinny Testaverde underthrew Michael Jackson and Corey Sawyer intercepted to aid the Bengals' comeback.

Turning point II: When Dave Shula was fired two weeks ago it gave the Bengals a lift. The Browns had beaten Shula's Bengals seven straight times. The Bengals are now 2-0 under new coach Bruce Coslet and won both games on second-half comebacks.

Best play: Doug Pelfrey booted a 49-yard, game-tying field goal into the swirling winds with 1: 49 left. For pressure kicks in difficult circumstances, they don't come any better than that.

Vinny file: Testaverde guaranteed he'd never play as poorly as he did in Houston a month ago. Was that a money-back guarantee? Of course, he didn't say anything about playing worse, but that's what he did against the Bengals. This was the vintage Vinny of Tampa Bay days as he was intercepted four times, including throws from the Cincinnati 7 and 15. He kept underthrowing. For the past month, football people have been asking who was the guy wearing Vinny's uniform. It turned out to be Vinny after all.

Last drive: After Cincinnati tied it 21-21, Testaverde threw three straight low incomplete passes to Michael Jackson although Jackson had a shot to catch the first one. The three passes took 13 seconds and gave Cincinnati time to drive for the game-winning field goal. By this point, Testaverde appeared jittery. A draw play might have been in order.

Winning ugly: On the game-tying drive for a field goal, quarterback Jeff Blake was supposed to hand off to Garrison Hearst. Instead, he ran into Hearst, aborted the handoff and scrambled for a first down.

Toast: The Bengals burned rookie cornerback DeRon Jenkins to a crisp when he was forced to play after Antonio Langham went out in the third quarter with a pulled hamstring. Jenkins got three penalties on one drive. The strange thing is that Langham, who had struggled all season, was playing well before the injury and batted away a third-down pass that forced the Bengals to settle for a second-period field goal.

Goal-line offense: The Bengals must have been impressed by the Ravens' goal line stand against the Rams last week. They had seven plays from the Ravens' 4 or closer on one second-half drive and didn't challenge the Ravens up the middle on any of them. They tried four passes, a sweep and an option play before Jeff Blake finally scored on a draw. Two defensive penalties kept the drive alive.

Stopping Big Daddy: Jeff Blackshear and Wally Williams did an excellent job of neutralizing the Bengals' Dan Wilkinson, who had just one tackle. But Blackshear said he couldn't savor the performance because the team lost. Wilkinson's only big play came when he dropped back in coverage and intercepted a pass, but then fumbled it right back.

Bam Bam: Bam Morris provided a good change of pace with Earnest Byner, gaining 48 yards in 11 carries; Byner added 44 in 12. But the Ravens stopped running with the lead in the second half and kept attacking with the no-huddle. Maybe Marchibroda remembered the 1977 overtime playoff loss to the Raiders when he was knocked for sitting on the lead.

Good work if you can get it: Ki-Jana Carter, the first-round pick a year ago who got a $7 million signing bonus from the Bengals, but is still recovering from a knee injury, carried just three times for 3 yards.

Standout play: Floyd Turner, who played virtually full time because of the no-huddle, caught six passes and stripped the ball away from Wilkinson after he intercepted a pass.

Looking ahead: The Ravens go to Jacksonville next week to face a team that swept them last year. What the Ravens have to play for now is pride and their jobs because this team -- facing severe salary cap problems -- is going to have to make a lot of changes next year. It'll be interesting to see how they respond to this challenge.

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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