It's cellar for Ravens after latest road loss Marchibroda runs out of explanations

December 10, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Ravens were looking to repeat history, but not like this. They tried to post another victory in Cincinnati, as they had done in late October last year as the Cleveland Browns, but were stuck with another road defeat.

That's 11 straight and counting since they conquered the Bengals, the team that added to the Ravens' troubles away from home with Sunday's 21-14 win.

The cities change, but not the outcome. Leads slip away, and the Ravens fall deeper in the AFC Central standings.

There's no place to go now. The latest loss assured the Ravens of finishing in last place, no matter what happens over their two remaining games, including Sunday in Carolina, the final road trip of a tired season.

"It's just a matter of not getting it done," said offensive tackle Tony Jones. "They're making the plays at the right time. When we're in position to make them, we're not.

"Right now, this is a new team and we know that, basically, it's going to be tough on the road. But it's always going to be tough on the road. To beat a team, you have to knock their crowd out. We haven't been able to do that yet."

The Ravens couldn't deliver the knockout punch to the Bengals on Sunday, again letting a team off the ropes after leading in the second half.

Coach Ted Marchibroda met with reporters yesterday at the Owings Mills complex and tried to put a different spin on the same story. But his first words were, "I don't know really what more there is to say. We talk about the same thing every week."

No wonder. The Ravens moved ahead Sunday, 14-13, with 9: 40 left, but couldn't hold on -- their fifth blown fourth-quarter lead in the last eight games.

"In the last nine ballgames, we've been ahead sometime in the second half and we still haven't learned how to win, how to close the deal," Marchibroda said. "We had the opportunity [Sunday], without question."

The opportunity was running three plays from Cincinnati's 1-yard line with less than a minute left, needing a touchdown and extra point to force overtime. Bam Morris was stopped twice for no gain, and on fourth down fullback Carwell Gardner was tackled short of the goal line after catching a pass in the left flat from Vinny Testaverde.

There's an old saying that good teams win the close games, something the Ravens keep failing to do. But Marchibroda sees JTC that changing next season.

"We'll have a better football team because we won't be as injured as what we are at this particular time," he said.

"It's a tough league and you're going to go through a period of time where you don't know how to win, where the better team beats you, the more experienced team beats you, the team that's been through the wars will beat you.

"Now, you win a big ballgame, a game that's meaningful that you weren't quite sure you could win. That propels you, it perpetuates that feeling. And every game you win thereafter makes that feeling stronger."

Asked if there is anything he could do differently to get the team over the hump this year, Marchibroda said, "I had hoped last week [a 31-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers] would get us over the hump, that we learned from that ballgame, but we didn't. And it's understandable you're not going to do it every time, either. Just because you win one doesn't mean you're going to win the next one. But we wanted to put two together. That was one of our challenges this week."

Here's the latest challenge: trying to win a game on the road, against a Carolina team coming off a 30-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers that made it the first NFL expansion team to clinch a playoff berth in its second season.

And that Carolina team is 6-0 at Ericsson Stadium.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Carolina Panthers

Site: Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Panthers by 8

Pub Date: 12/10/96

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