'Real winning streak' is team's new challenge 2 in row nothing special, say Siragusa, Testaverde

Ravens notebook

September 19, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Now that the Ravens finally have a road victory and a two-game winning streak to feel good about, the message among some of their veterans heading into this week's test in Tennessee is clear.

Forget about it, because you haven't accomplished much yet.

"We've still got 13 games to go. So we've won two in a row. I guess that gives you guys [reporters] one less thing to write about," defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "It's not that big of a deal. I'm used to winning two in a row. I'm used to winning two, three, four, five in a row. All we should be thinking about is getting back to work. It's a long season."

Added quarterback Vinny Testaverde: "I don't think two games is a real winning streak. This is a new challenge for us, to string together some good games and put together a real winning streak. We need to win more tough games on the road. I'm not sure if a lot of people realize what a big test and what an important game this is."

A victory would be a huge boost for the Ravens. It would give them undisputed possession of first place in the AFC Central for the first time in their history. It would make them 2-1 in their division, and it would pull them within one win of last year's victory total.

Stopping George is key

Beating the Oilers probably will come down to one monumental task. The Ravens must find a way to contain second-year running back Eddie George, who might be the league's best player at this stage of the season.

George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick of the Oilers, has carried 58 times in two games for 322 yards and two touchdowns. A stout 6 feet 3 and 232 pounds, he is the reason the Oilers lead the NFL in ground offense with 220.0 yards per game.

The Ravens, with the league's No. 6 run defense, easily have met their toughest match. They cannot afford the sloppy tackling that hurt them in last Sunday's 24-23 victory over the New York Giants.

"They could line [George] up at linebacker. He's an impressive guy who is big and physical, and he makes you tackle him," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "There were times last year when he looked a little tentative. This year, he knows what he's doing, and that offense knows where it is headed."

Tom Matte, the former Colts running back and a graduate of Ohio State -- George's alma mater -- called George the best running back in the NFL. Matte met George last spring when he visited Buckeyes coach John Cooper.

"I love his attitude. You can tell this kid just wants to be a football player," Matte said. "And I don't think I've ever seen a body like his on a football player before. Unbelievable."

Said Oilers coach Jeff Fisher: "It's not what [George] does on that first or second carry. It's what he does on that 18th, 26th or 28th carry that's impressive. He gets stronger as the game goes on. He wants to be the workhorse, and he loves the pressure."

Tough turf

The Ravens, who played on artificial turf for the first time last week, will not perform on that surface until they revisit the Meadowlands on Nov. 2 against the New York Jets. And that's fine with them. Numerous players who are recovering from knee problems -- safeties Rondell Jones and Stevon Moore and defensive end Rob Burnett -- aggravated their conditions last Sunday.

"Why do the owners even bother with it? Low maintenance. Money," said tight end Eric Green, who had knee surgery in January. Green surprised himself by coming out of the Giants game in good health. He was fit enough to run on Monday.

Moore is still getting over the post-turf soreness. He said the surface affected his game, which was subpar by Moore's standards.

"I know I'm hurt. I did what I could, but I wasn't going to jeopardize my career or my team by showing how tough I am. The important thing is we won the game and I came out of it walking," said Moore, who said he especially hates the Meadowlands turf. That's where he tore up his knee as a rookie with the Jets in 1989.

"For teams that have speed, it helps them, but [the turf] does nothing for me," Moore said. "It affects a lot of guys when they become free agents. A lot of guys don't want to play on that junk. I know I don't."

Testaverde's targets

Jermaine Lewis is due to rejoin the Ravens on Sunday -- the second-year receiver is practicing with the first team again this week -- and that gives Testaverde one more target to keep happy.

Wide receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander are off to fine starts, and Green is quickly becoming another fixture. Lewis was effective in the slot in the season opener, catching four passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

Testaverde smiled when asked about his "problem."

"I had the same problems in college [at Miami]," he said. "I had Michael Irvin in one ear, along with Brian Blades and Brett Perriman. To be successful in this league, a quarterback needs to surrounded with talent. This is a great problem to have."

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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