Historical ugliness lives again

November 25, 1996|By JOHN EISENBERG

It wasn't just another defeat. The Ravens re-created pro football history yesterday as they lost again to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Joe Pisarcik's fumble. Scott Norwood's wide right. The Fumble by Earnest Byner. Benny Barnes' interference call on Lynn Swann in Super Bowl XIII. Quentin Coryatt's dropped interception in last year's AFC Championship Game.

The Ravens reprised all of those high moments of infamy while turning a 15-point lead into a loss at Memorial Stadium.

And you thought it was just another giveaway in a dismal season of many.

This was a history lesson, people!

Vinny Testaverde played the part of Pisarcik. Matt Stover played Norwood. Eric Turner played Coryatt. Byner played himself.

And the officiating crew, which bumbled through what Testaverde called "one of the worst" zebra performances he has ever seen, played the crew that blew the call on Barnes.

"We had countless opportunities to win," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said after the 28-25 loss.

The best came after the Jaguars turned the ball over on downs at the Ravens' 30 with 2: 49 left in the fourth quarter. Up by eight points, the Ravens needed to generate one first down to win the game.

On first down, Testaverde fumbled the snap from center Wally Williams.

"I think [the ball] hit Wally on the leg and it popped up out of my hands," Testaverde said.

Pisarcik needed only fall on the ball to clinch a win for the Giants in 1978, but he bungled a handoff and the Eagles' Herman Edwards returned the fumble for the winning touchdown. The loss set the Giants back three years.

Yesterday, the Jaguars recovered Testaverde's fumble and drove 19 yards to the tying touchdown.

"It was going to be a toss to Bam [Morris]," Testaverde said, "and the thing was, I told him to make sure he caught the ball and don't worry about making yardage."

L Morris never got the ball or the chance to make any yardage.

Even after the Jaguars tied the score, Testaverde moved the offense downfield and into position for a game-winning field goal.

There were seven seconds left when Stover lined up for a 49-yarder. He had made all four of his previous field-goal attempts.

"The snap was good, the hold was good and I hit the kick well, just as I did all day," Stover said. "The ball flew straight as ever."

Straight from the right hash mark to the right of the uprights -- almost an exact re-creation of Norwood's miss that cost the Bills a Super Bowl win in 1991.

Stover has made 15 of 20 field-goal attempts this season, but he is 0-for-2 with games on the line. He missed a 32-yarder at the end of regulation in the Ravens' overtime win over the Rams.

"It's disappointing because I love to be in that position, with a chance to make a huge play," Stover said. "But there are no excuses. Either you make the play or you don't. I didn't make it."

The Ravens failed to make another play when Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell threw over the middle on the first play of overtime. Turner read the play, cut in front of the receiver, reached down and had the ball in his hands.

Coryatt, a linebacker for the Colts, had a chance to make a similar play late in the AFC title game against the Steelers last year, all but sealing a win.

He dropped the interception. So did Turner yesterday.

The Ravens still had a chance to win in overtime after they forced the Jaguars to punt. They drove impressively from their 6 to a first down at the Jacksonville 38, with Testaverde converting two third downs and one fourth into firsts.

It seemed the Ravens were getting ready to pull one out after blowing so many chances.

Then Byner hit the line off right guard and fumbled when hit by Kevin Hardy, whose teammate Kelvin Pritchett recovered to end the threat. The Jaguars drove to the winning field goal.

A fumble by Byner cost the Browns a shot at the Super Bowl in the 1987 season; he lost control at Denver's 3 just when he appeared ready to score the tying touchdown late in the game. It became known as The Fumble, a mistake that haunted Byner.

Byner left the locker room before reporters were allowed in yesterday.

The famous interference call on Barnes, for which then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle apologized to Cowboys fans, wasn't specifically re-created yesterday. But the game included a seemingly endless string of poor calls and drawn-out officiating huddles.

The Ravens probably got the worst of it, but both teams suffered from the zebras' ineptitude.

Marchibroda was so frustrated that he said he wouldn't bother to send a tape of the game to the league office.

"What good would it do?" he asked. "It won't change the score."

A reversal of any of the many historical re-creations would have changed the score and given the Ravens/Browns their first career win over the vaunted Jags.

Instead, there was Ravens receiver Michael Jackson looking glum after the team's fourth straight loss.

"We had the game in the bag, but someone cut a little hole in the side and the game came out," Jackson said.

"You need a new bag," someone said.

Jackson did not disagree.

Losing time

The Ravens have had the lead entering the fourth quarter in four of their past six games, losing each time. They split the two games in which they trailed:

Date, Opponent ................. After 3 quarters ..... Result

10-20, at Denver Ravens ........ 34-31 ................ L, 45-34

10-27 St. Louis Rams ........... 20-17 ................ W, 37-31, OT

11-3 Cincinnati Ravens ......... 21-10 ................ L, 24-21

11-10 at Jacksonville Ravens ... 20-13 ................ L, 30-27

BTC 11-17 at San Francisco 49ers ... 24-20 ................ L, 38-20

11-24 Jacksonville Ravens ...... 25-10 ................ L, 28-25, OT

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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