Ravens seeking road reversal Franchise 0-8 in '96, 0-12 since Oct. '95

September 14, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The last time the Ravens' franchise won a game on the road, the team was in Cleveland, Eric Zeier was the starting quarterback and owner Art Modell had yet to announce his plans to move to Baltimore.

The date was Oct. 29, 1995, and the Cleveland Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 29-26, in overtime, with Zeier having replaced a benched Vinny Testaverde. One week later, Modell announced the club was moving to Baltimore.

The franchise is 0-12 in road games since then, and the Ravens (1-1) begin the first of three successive away games at 1 p.m. today, when they meet the New York Giants (1-1) at Giants Stadium.

"I don't know what my record is on the road or at home, but to me, when you you play ball, you play ball the same on the road as you do at home," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "You have a different environment, a different atmosphere, but you're playing the game of football. I think that's the most important thing; you don't play the people in the stands.

"What we have to learn to do is play with the same intensity as we did last week. The rest takes care of itself."

Marchibroda has been trying to downplay the team's 0-8 road record last season, even meeting with his team Wednesday to inform the players that their road record was going to be the

center of attention.

The players acknowledge the concern of winning on the road, but, more importantly, of putting together two wins for the first time since the team moved to Baltimore. The Ravens, 4-12 last season, defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-10, last Sunday.

"The common theme of the organization here as well as in Cleveland was that once we won big games, there was a tendency to rest and relax instead of having it carry over to the next game," running back Earnest Byner said.

"Ted has talked about the road record, but this is a chance for us to take more than just one step. We need to start quickly, get the fans out of the game and then finish."

Said safety Stevon Moore: "If we get this game, then I think we've really got something good going. You've got to get a streak going in this league."

Despite this game's ramifications, the Ravens were a relatively loose bunch in the locker room and on the field this past week. Even Testaverde, usually all business, was telling jokes, and rookie running back Jay Graham was doing impersonations of the coaching staff and teammates.

But veteran safety Bennie Thompson carefully reminded everyone that the team had won only one game.

"It's not a feeling of overconfidence or cockiness," Marchibroda said. "It's not carrying over onto the field. It's been all business at practice. You have to find the medium of being loose, but at the same time practicing and playing well. I think we've progressed a lot from last year."

The Giants are slight favorites, but on paper this is a game the Ravens can win. New York has two inexperienced players on the offensive line, a rookie starting at running back in Tiki Barber, and a quarterback in Dave Brown who has been inconsistent for all of his five-plus years in the league.

Giants first-year coach Jim Fassel has spent the early part of the season defending Brown.

"We're trying to build his confidence and his consistency," Fassel said. "He is a good guy, a smart guy and he works hard. He has shown a lot of mental toughness."

The team's No. 1 draft pick who was supposed to provide an offensive spark, wide receiver Ike Hilliard, is out six to seven weeks with a sprained neck. The Giants have the 26th-ranked offense in the league, averaging 70.0 rushing and 178.0 passing yards.

And Fassel is wary of the Ravens, saying he was impressed with the club's victory over the Bengals, particularly the way the defense handled quarterback Jeff Blake.

"I think Cincy is going to be a good football team, but I thought the Ravens just manhandled them. They broke Blake's rhythm, had their way with him completely," Fassel said. "Signing [Michael] McCrary and drafting [Peter] Boulware and [Jamie] Sharper and having [Ray] Lewis in the middle with a year behind him, they've really improved that team."

The Giants have the No. 29 defense in the league and the Ravens' offense is No. 3, averaging 109.0 rushing and 283.5 passing yards. Look for the Ravens to try and establish the run early and for Marchibroda to get more production from Graham.

The Ravens don't need a wide-open or gambling offense, just basic, sound football with few turnovers to give up field position.

"We would like to get a good start early, and that would be a change," Marchibroda said. "As far as the season, we've only won one ballgame, so we haven't done anything yet. But we have good, experienced leadership on the ballclub, mixed with youth and enthusiasm, and hopefully that will carry us through."

NOTES: Decisions on defensive end Rob Burnett (knee injury), slot receiver Jermaine Lewis (knee injury) and center Quentin Neujahr (ankle injury) will be made at game time. Burnett and Lewis probably will play.

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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