Napping Niners stir, close book on Zeier fairy tale

FROM THE SIDELINES

November 18, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Ravens lost a chance yesterday to reprise "42nd Street," the sentimental story of the understudy who got a chance to play the lead and became a star.

When Vinny Testaverde, who had been just one of five NFL quarterbacks to take every snap this year, was knocked out with bruised ribs in the second quarter, Eric Zeier came off the bench to lead the team from a 17-7 deficit to a 20-17 lead in the third period.

But this is real life and the San Francisco 49ers, who aren't what they once were, are still too good for the injury-riddled Ravens.

The 49ers got serious and scored the last three touchdowns to win, 38-20, in a game that was closer than the score.

There were 18,079 no-shows on a rainy day, and for long stretches the 49ers appeared to be a no-show, but they played well enough to win.

That's what good teams do and it's the difference between 8-3 (49ers) and 3-8 (Ravens).

A look at the highlights and lowlights of the game that made it official that the Ravens won't have a winning season in their first year in Baltimore.

Stepping up: Chris Doleman, one of the 49ers' key off-season free-agent acquisitions, was blanked in the first half by Tony Jones, but came back to victimize him with three second-half sacks.

Best-laid plans: The Ravens tried to surprise the 49ers by running the ball with the no-huddle from a two-tight end set. Bam Morris got a first down on his first two runs, but then was held to minus-2, 1, 3, 3, 3 and 1 on his next six runs before Testaverde got hurt and they had to abandon the no-huddle. The 49ers are too good at stopping the run to make a living doing that.

Not much Bam: Morris was held to 62 yards in 20 carries as the Ravens learned that running against the 49ers isn't the same as running against the Jaguars.

The Zeier file: For a second-year quarterback who hadn't played in the first 10 games, Eric Zeier did all that could be asked of him even though his two critical turnovers turned the game. But that's why it helps to have a more experienced backup.

The Vinny file: Testaverde gets an incomplete grade. He threw a touchdown pass on his third play, but the offense then stalled on three straight drives before he was injured.

Where's the kneel? With a first down on the Ravens' 4 with 1: 01 left, the 49ers called a timeout and scored a touchdown that padded the final margin and thrilled the 49ers fans who gave the points. Perhaps coach George Seifert is trying to move up in the power rankings.

Bad hands: Dexter Carter of the 49ers went back to his old ways of treating the ball like a wet bar of soap. He fumbled one punt to give the Ravens a field goal. He also fumbled a kickoff, recovered and returned it all the way only to have it wiped out by a holding call.

Going for it: On fourth-and-four at the Ravens' 35 with 9 minutes left in the third period, Seifert decided to go for it and Jerry Rice caught a first-down pass. The 49ers went on to complete a 16-play, 67-yard drive to score the go- ahead touchdown.

Big stops: The Ravens killed two first-half drives when Anthony Pleasant threw Derek Loville for a 2-yard loss on third-and-one at the 49ers' 32 in the first quarter and Keith Goganious tackled Terry Kirby for a 1-yard gain on third-and-three at the 49ers' 16 in the second period.

Sure tackle: In the third period, Stevon Moore tackled Brent Jones 2 yards short of a first down on a third-and-nine play at the 49ers' 38 to force another punt. The Ravens defense has had trouble making those kinds of plays.

Best Ravens play: Michael Jackson took advantage of poor coverage by Marquez Pope and Merton Hanks to haul in a 65-yard touchdown pass on the Ravens' third play.

Streak: Eric Turner intercepted a pass for his fourth straight game, although this was an easy one when Elvis Grbac's arm was hit by Mike Croel as he released the ball and it floated into the air.

Shaky start: On his first play as a starter, linebacker Eddie Sutter took one step forward and tight end Jones blew by him to catch a 33-yard pass to set up the 49ers' first score. Sutter, filling in for injured Ray Lewis, rebounded to make six tackles.

Standout rookie: Top draft pick Jonathan Ogden continued to live up to his reputation as he neutralized 49ers standout Dana Stubblefield (one tackle).

Where's Rice? Although Rice victimized rookie DeRon Jenkins on a 34-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, he caught only five other passes for 24 yards. It shows that even the Raven can keep from getting torched by Rice because the 49ers don't have another standout receiver.

The tight end: It is a critical component of the West Coast offense and the 49ers finally did get tight end Brent Jones involved in the offense. Injured for much of the year, Jones had caught just five passes all year, but added six against the Ravens.

Return: Antonio Langham, who was out last week with a pulled hamstring, returned to the Ravens lineup on a part-time basis and came up with an interception. He didn't play full-time because of the slippery, muddy turf, but he should help the secondary the rest of the way.

Staying healthy: Anthony Pleasant, who injured his ankle in the opener and has been bothered by it all season, finally was able to play the entire game and returned a fumble 36 yards in the third period to set up a touchdown. He says the ankle finally is healed and hopes he can play the rest of the year.

Looking ahead: The Ravens step down in class and play a team on their level, Jacksonville, at home Sunday, in a rematch of the game they blew a week ago. Since their other two home games are against Pittsburgh and Houston, it may be their last chance to win before the home fans this year.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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