Bad days do not get much worse

November 11, 1996|By John Eisenberg

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When is a bad day really bad? When you all but admit that you quit the week before.

When is a bad day really bad? When you play one of your best games and still lose to a second-year expansion team.

When is a bad day really bad? When you ruin your season by failing to hold a 14-point halftime lead just seven days after failing to hold an 18-point halftime lead.

Oh, well, at least the Ravens won't have to worry about blowing another big halftime lead next Sunday in San Francisco; the 49ers should be in a real good mood after losing to Dallas yesterday.

The Ravens are looking at a third straight defeat there and at least a few more down the stretch for a season with double-digit losses, a major disappointment by any reckoning.

The shame is that it didn't have to be that way.

The Ravens should have a 5-5 record and dreams of a wild-card berth, however distant.

That they don't is a disgrace -- no less than that -- because they all but admitted after yesterday's 30-27 loss to the Jaguars that they quit against the Bengals last week at Memorial Stadium.

"This loss was completely different," head coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We fought right to the end."

Nose guard Tim Goad was even more direct.

"In this one we didn't give up," he said. "We fought to the end. Last week we didn't."

Vinny Testaverde seconded Goad. "We didn't fight last week," he said.

Wow.

No one was admitting that last week.

And why didn't they fight? What is going on around here? What caused them to fall asleep and basically just shrug away a key game as if it didn't matter? Was it a lack of desire? A lack of experience? A lack of veteran leadership? Overconfidence? And how did the coaches let it happen? Where was the leadership?

Those are all hard questions, but they are fair questions in the wake of such a frank admission.

And understand, it wasn't as if anyone was sniffing around and trying to dig up dirt yesterday. This was not some Watergate-style interrogation. Reporters weren't even delving into the Cincy loss until the players and coaches volunteered their opinions.

Opinions that were searing indictments of a team that has been guilty all season of overestimating its ability.

The Ravens had a 3-5 record before playing the Bengals, with their wins against teams with a combined 8-16 record. That's not much to brag about, and it certainly wasn't enough to excuse them for thinking they were good enough to coast with a lead.

Reality check, please.

The Ravens aren't good enough to coast for one minute of any game, regardless of the score.

They're not a playoff team that has been undermined by injuries, as they would have you believe. They're a mediocrity in need of more playmakers.

At least they learned their lesson from the Cincy loss. Their effort was solid for 60 minutes yesterday even though they blew a 27-16 lead in the last six minutes.

"We fought so hard that there was nothing left to give," Marchibroda said.

That's admirable, but isn't it just what pro football players are supposed to do?

And hey, it's also an indictment that the Ravens gave what Marchibroda called their "best effort" and still lost.

They got a 100-yard rushing game from Bam Morris, three touchdown passes and no interceptions from Testaverde, an above-average performance by the defense against a tough offense for most of the game -- and still lost to a fledgling team with a 5-18 record against opponents other than the Browns/Ravens.

Talk about a loss that puts you in your place.

"If you give your best effort and it isn't enough, find someone else," said safety Bennie Thompson, whose effort, fight and leadership were superb all day. "We should have put both of these teams away. I can't believe we didn't."

They didn't yesterday because they don't have enough players who make big plays, particularly on defense.

"That's what it's all about, making big plays when you need them," Goad said. "They did and we didn't. All we needed was one and we couldn't make it."

One big pass rush resulting in a forced pass. One big tackle. One big deflection.

One big anything!

"The day will come when we will make that big play," Marchibroda said.

That day wasn't yesterday. The Jaguars drove 90 and 66 yards for touchdowns in the last six minutes, turning an 11-point loss into a three-point win.

"It's something we really haven't shown to this point," Jags quarterback Mark Brunell said.

The Ravens were the perfect foil. Their locker room was subdued, almost to the point of silence. Several players refused to talk. The reality of a lost season was hitting them.

"It's going to take a lot of crazy stuff for us to get in the playoffs bTC now," Bam Morris said.

Someone asked Marchibroda if his team's season were over.

"I think probably so," he said.

That's always a bad day, a really bad day.

How bad is it?

Yesterday's loss to the Jaguars kept the Ravens reeling. The dishonor roll:

The Ravens are last in the AFC Central with a 3-7 mark, and only one other AFC team, the 1-9 New York Jets, has a worse record.

They have lost five of their past six games after starting the season 2-2.

They have allowed 286 points, the second-highest total in the NFL behind the 1-9 Atlanta Falcons.

They are 0-5 on the road, 0-4 in the division and 1-7 in the conference.

They have been outscored by an average margin of 32.2-22.4 in their five road losses.

Their three victories have come against teams with a combined 9-21 record.

Their final six opponents are a combined 34-26 (.566).

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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