Poor play negated by good breaks

From The Sidelines

September 15, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It wasn't easy for the Ravens to prepare for yesterday's game against the New York Giants.

The problem was that they had to watch the videotape of the Giants' dreadful, 40-13 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday.

They came to the conclusion they couldn't possibly lose to the Giants, a perception that was enhanced when they jumped to a 7-0 lead on their first possession and the Giants went three-and-out on two of their first three possessions.

The Ravens then acted as if they could win by just going through the motions, and they did. They were listless throughout much of the game and escaped with a 24-23 victory by rallying for 10 points on their final two possessions.

But the lesson of this game is that there aren't many teams they can beat if they don't recapture the intensity they had a week ago against the Cincinnati Bengals. They survived because Brad Daluiso missed a pair of 41-yard field-goal attempts, and his first extra-point try was blocked.

The Giants had a 29-19 edge in first downs and a 390-273 margin in net yardage, and they limited the Ravens to 63 yards rushing on 21 carries.

The Ravens were so lackluster that they had an interception that was rubbed out by a penalty, had to call timeout before a kickoff when they had just 10 men on the field, lost the ball in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage and managed to give up 269 yards passing to Dave Brown.

The only thing that counts, though, is W's and L's, and the important thing is that they found a way to win on a day they played so poorly. They learned they can't take any team for granted.

This was their first road win, but they'll find out whether it was significant when they play the Oilers and Chargers on the road in the next two weeks.

Highlights and lowlights of a game that was the definition of winning ugly:

Turning point: With a little more than three minutes left, the Giants faced a third-and-one at the Ravens' 23. If they had made the first down, they could have taken a couple more minutes off the clock and the Ravens wouldn't have had a chance to come back. But Tiki Barber was thrown for a yard loss. That left it fourth-and-two. Daluiso missed the 41-yard field-goal attempt, and the Ravens got the ball back with 2: 59 left. The Giants probably should have gone for it because Daluiso had been shaky, but coaches tend to be conservative and quarterback Brown is never a sure bet to make a play.

Bold call: In Baltimore, football fans still remember coach Ted Marchibroda sitting on the lead in the fourth quarter of the Colts' 1977 overtime playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders. But in the Ted II era in Baltimore, he's more willing to gamble. With a 7-6 lead with three minutes left in the first half, the Ravens had a fourth-and-goal at the Giants' 1 after they got stuffed on first and second down and had an incomplete pass on third down. Marchibroda spurned the field-goal attempt and went for it on the same play that didn't work on first and second down -- Jay Graham to the right side. This time, Graham got the touchdown.

One knee equals two feet: John Madden once wrote a book with that title. It means that if a receiver gets a knee down in bounds, it's the same as getting both feet in. Michael Jackson got his knee in while making a diving 11-yard touchdown catch in the left corner of the end zone that cut the deficit to two points in the fourth quarter.

Testaverde file: Quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses, and what counts is that Vinny Testaverde got the victory with a late rally. He used the no-huddle offense the entire second half, even though the Ravens were blanked for the first 22 minutes of the half. But he stuck with it and finally got results. He also did it playing with a sprained thumb in the second half.

Running games: When an NFL team runs the ball 25 times or fewer, it has won only 17 percent of the time the past three years. The Ravens ran just 21 times but escaped with a victory. They even tried to run on third-and-two and second-and-14 in the second quarter, but were foiled. The offensive line didn't open many holes.

The missing rush: The Ravens' front seven kept the heat on Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake last week, but they gave Brown plenty of time to throw. They weren't credited with a single sack despite Brown's slow release, although Peter Boulware forced him into a game-ending intentional grounding penalty on the final play. The Ravens have to get the rush back against the Oilers' Steve McNair next week.

Missed tackles: The Ravens had problems tackling throughout the game as Giants running backs and receivers repeatedly broke tackles. Brown dumped off the ball to the running backs 11 times and they often gained yardage by breaking tackles. Even though linebacker Ray Lewis had 14 tackles and was in on seven assists, even he didn't have a vintage game. They have to do better against Oilers running back Eddie George.

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