Ravens do run, run, run, but it's not winning tune

From The Sidelines

November 11, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Running the ball and stopping the run have been the essence of football since the days of Pop Warner.

The Ravens did both yesterday, and yet they still managed to blow a big halftime lead and lose in the final minute of play for the second straight week.

Even though they ran 36 times for 152 yards and held the Jacksonville Jaguars to 86 yards in 20 carries, it didn't matter, because Mark Brunell sliced up their injury-riddled defense for touchdown drives of 90 and 66 yards in the final six minutes to overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit and pull out a 30-27 victory with 41 seconds left.

A week ago, the Ravens blew a 21-3 halftime lead to the Cincinnati Bengals and lost, 24-21, on the final play.

The bottom line is that bad teams find different ways to lose. Last week, the Ravens started with the no-huddle and built a lead and blew it. This week, they ran Bam Morris without the no-huddle, built a lead and blew it.

Sound familiar?

"We need our core group of guys to make the plays," said defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

Until they start doing that, the 3-7 Ravens are going to keep losing.

A look at the highlights and lowlights of the latest loss:

Turning point: After the Jaguars cut the deficit to 27-22, the Ravens took over on their 25 with 3: 50 to play and needed just one first down to wrap it up. But Morris was stopped for 1 yard on first down, Testaverde threw a second-down screen low to Morris because he felt the linebackers penetrated, then heaved a third-down pass just before he was sacked. The Ravens then had to punt, and Jacksonville had 2: 31 to mount its game-winning drive. The Jaguars needed only 1: 50.

Where's the D?: Though several starters are ailing, the Ravens held the Jaguars to one touchdown on their first 11 possessions and then gave up touchdowns on the Jaguars' final two possessions. Lewis tried some new wrinkles, including using new linebacker Sedric Clark as a lineman and inserting offensive lineman Sale Isaia on goal-line defense. But with the game on the line, the defense couldn't make the big plays.

More D problems: Brunell produced 138 of the Jaguars' 418 yards on just four plays -- a 33-yard scramble and passes of 37, 35 and 33 yards.

Vinny file: This was the Vinny Testaverde who has frustrated coaches throughout his career. At times, he'd make big plays, throwing for three touchdown passes. He hit Morris on a hot read for what turned out to be a 52-yard score and looked off the safety to hit Derrick Alexander on a 21-yard touchdown. Yet he fumbled three times when his teammates failed to stop blitzers. He also couldn't come up with a first down with the game on the line at the end. Consistency has never been his strong suit.

Bam: Morris gave the running game the lift he was expected to provide, running 26 times for 109 yards and catching three passes for 73 yards. Yet he wasn't on the field when the Ravens had a first down on the 5 with 32 seconds left in the first half. It

looked as if Morris needed a rest, but Morris said he could have gone in.

Playing percentages: With eight seconds left in the first half, the Ravens had third down at the Jacksonville 3. That's enough time to throw a quick pass into the end zone and kick a field goal on fourth down if it misfires. But the Ravens were conservative and took the field goal on third down.

Big plays: Alexander made two critical plays for the Ravens in the fourth quarter. He beat Robert Massey to catch a 22-yarder on third-and-seven at the Ravens' 44 to keep a drive alive and then capped it by beating Massey again to catch a 21-yard touchdown pass. That put the Ravens up by 11 with 6: 23 left and should have been enough to win it.

Bad Moon: Andre Rison talked a better game than he played. The former Raven, who's costing the team $1 million against the salary cap this year and $3 million next year even though he's departed, called the Ravens "jealous-head punks" before the game. He also got involved in a couple of scuffles. But he wasn't a major factor, with six catches, and he let one ball go off his fingertips for an interception and failed to turn around on a pass that hit cornerback DeRon Jenkins in the helmet.

Stepping up: Defensive back Bennie Thompson, who plays in passing situations, got six tackles and three sacks and did his share of jawing with Rison.

Tight ends: The Ravens' two tight ends, Brian Kinchen and Eric Green, combined for seven catches. They were particularly effective when Testaverde ran bootlegs and then found them downfield.

Punting game: Greg Montgomery had a punt blocked in the second quarter when Ricky Bell got inside Vashone Adams, leading to a Jaguars field goal. But he dropped a 51-yarder on the Jacksonville 4 in the third quarter.

Good selection: Rookie defensive lineman Kevin Hardy, the second player picked in the draft, is living up to his college reputation, registering seven tackles, four assists and a sack for the Jaguars.

Looking ahead: The reeling Ravens are facing what is likely to be their toughest game of the season Sunday, when they go to San Francisco. The 49ers have been saying their offense isn't in sync. The Ravens' defense should solve that problem. Imagine Jerry Rice against the Ravens' secondary. Do they have a V chip to ban the showing of that mismatch?

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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