Coach sees Ravens on rise Young team 'only going to get better,' insists Marchibroda after loss

September 02, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

One day after the Ravens lost a 28-27 thriller to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Memorial Stadium, coach Ted Marchibroda was repairing the team's psyche yesterday and sending another message to his team and its fans.

"Pass judgment from here on in on this football team," Marchibroda said. "We had some kids playing their first football game. It's only going to get better."

Immediately after the loss, an emotional Marchibroda went into damage control mode, saying this was not the same Ravens team as last year, when the team lost eight of its last 10 games after having second-half leads.

The Ravens led Jacksonville 27-21 after Matt Stover's 25-yard field goal with 8: 46 left in the game, but Jaguars quarterback Rob Johnson threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jimmy Smith with 5: 47 remaining to pull out the win.

The Ravens had two more opportunities to score, but quarterback Vinny Testaverde, playing with a deep thigh bruise, underthrew a wide-open Jermaine Lewis at the Jacksonville 45 and the pass was intercepted by Deon Figures with 2: 01 left.

A Jacksonville fumble gave Testaverde another chance. But faced with fourth-and-18 at the 50-yard line after two incomplete passes and a sack, Testaverde threw a low pass that Michael Jackson seemed to catch at the Jacksonville 30 with 37 seconds left in the game. But the pass was ruled incomplete by head linesman Sanford Rivers.

"This was devastating; we lost a big, big ballgame that could have meant something to this football team," Marchibroda said. "When you play a team that almost went to the Super Bowl to a standstill, when you put so much into it for so long, then it hurts. It really hurts."

If the Ravens had won, it would have given the team an emotional lift and removed the stigma of its not being able to win close games in the fourth quarter.

A win also would have put the Ravens into position to go 2-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals at home this Sunday before going on the road for three straight games.

Instead

"There is no correlation between this year and last year," said Marchibroda, who has the fifth-youngest team in the league with an average age of 26. "We're playing with a different kind of intensity, with a different kind of work ethic. We're playing with a confidence where we can win these kind of games. If we play with the same intensity, we'll win our share."

Ravens running back Earnest Byner said: "There is a different mentality from a year ago. There is a more concentrated effort for games and practices. The thing that will really make the difference is more growth. What we learned from this game is that we can win in this league."

Marchibroda said he saw some major improvements from last year. The Ravens' special teams were superb, limiting Jacksonville to 6 punt return yards and Lewis had a kickoff return for 42 yards to set up a third-quarter touchdown. Kicker Matt Stover added field goals of 33 and 25 yards.

A year ago, the Ravens' defense rarely made a big play in the fourth quarter, but it stopped Jacksonville twice in the last 3: 39, including rookie safety Kim Herring's hit on running back Natrone Means. The blow forced a fumble that the Ravens recovered with 1: 08 remaining.

"The biggest area of improvement was our defense," said Marchibroda, who started rookies Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper at the outside linebacking positions.

"After we gave up the quick 14 points in the first quarter, we settled down and stopped a good running game with a great back. Overall, we're a much better football team than a year ago."

But the Ravens still have weakness at cornerback, despite a pass rush that collected three sacks, hurried Jacksonville quarterbacks five times and twice knocked Johnson out of the game.

The Ravens are expecting to have defensive end Michael McCrary against the Bengals on Sunday, but the front seven can't apply pressure every play.

"We don't have coverage problems," said defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. "One guy doesn't make a difference. One guy is not going to improve that. We just have to go out and play better."

Marchibroda said there will be no changes made in the secondary. The Ravens' options are limited, especially because the team has little room under the salary cap to make a deal.

"When you hit 20 out of 24 passes, you need some help down there. Whenever you do what they were able to do, you're going to find yourself in trouble. But they're our guys," said Marchibroda, not exactly giving his present group a ringing endorsement.

Offensively, Testaverde threw three interceptions, one that led to a Jacksonville touchdown in the second quarter.

Yesterday, Testaverde said he thought about coming out of the game when he was injured with 7: 23 left in the first half, but he wanted to make a point to his teammates, especially some of the younger ones.

"I didn't have my full range of motion," said Testaverde, not one to make excuses. "The pain was in my left thigh, which made it hard to plant. After I got up a little slowly, I just wanted to show them that they can count on me. That if I get knocked around, I'm still going to be there. The loss was hard to accept, but we can use this as a moral victory."

Defensive tackle Larry Webster said: "We've got a lot of leaders on this team, like Earnest Byner, Vinny, 'Goose' [Tony Siragusa], Stevon Moore and Bennie Thompson. All the individualism on this team is gone. We're getting better, and once you conquer the problems within yourself, the battle is done."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Site: Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 11 (subject to blackout rule); WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Bengals by 1 1/2

Pub Date: 9/02/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.