Mind games on coach's schedule Marchibroda seeks motivational theme

September 28, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda has to win another mind game before today's matchup with the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

Marchibroda, in his 29th year of coaching, has had fun winning over his players, who make up one of the NFL's youngest teams.

A week ago, Marchibroda motivated the Ravens (3-1) against the Tennessee Oilers by showing his players a copy of The Sun in which four of five writers picked the Oilers to beat the Ravens. The Ravens crushed Tennessee, 36-10, and Marchibroda and his players had fun razzing the media.

When asked what the theme was this week, Marchibroda winked and replied: "Same old Ravens?" -- referring to the question posed after the team blew a second-half lead and lost its opener to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But motivation is a serious concern going into today's game against the Chargers. The Ravens aren't world-beaters, but it's hard to get weekly consistency from inexperienced teams. On top of that, the Chargers are 1-3 and have scored only three touchdowns on offense.

But left guard Leo Goeas said, "We're not going to win just by showing up. San Diego's record is not indicative of how well they have played lately. They have a whole new coaching staff, new systems, and it's starting to come together. We can't think San Diego is going to roll over."

It's also a big game because the Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defending AFC Central champions, next Sunday at Memorial Stadium. The Ravens also have a chance to go 3-0 in a three-game road stretch, which hasn't been accomplished since the 1994 season by the New York Giants.

"Teams don't win three games on the road often because team usually don't play three on the road [in a row]," Marchibroda said. His team has a similar stretch in late October and early November against the Redskins, Jets and Steelers.

"The road doesn't bother us," he said. "We didn't win on the road last year [0-8] because we weren't good enough to win. To beat the Oilers after they came off the bye means we're getting better."

Today marks the return of star running back Bam Morris to the lineup after a second straight September swoon of missing four games. Morris was suspended the week before the opener for violating the league's policy on substance and alcohol abuse.

Morris is not expected to start today, but he worked extensively with the second team most of the past week and should give starter Earnest Byner some relief shortly before or after halftime.

"It's time for me to put all the other things behind me and play ball," Morris said. "I let my teammates down, but now I have a chance to give them a lift."

Running backs coach Al Lavan said, "The thing Bam has always shown is that he is a football player. Here is a guy who played the last three games on a bad knee last year. This guy would practice only on Friday, then play on Sunday. That says something."

The Ravens may not need much assistance from Morris today. They will run to keep San Diego off balance, but they also will go after the Chargers' secondary. Every team does. San Diego has the No. 21 pass defense in the league, allowing 226.8 yards per game.

The Ravens have the No. 3 pass offense, averaging 271.5 per game.

"They've had a great offense since Ted and his staff have been there. Those guys have some great weapons," Chargers coach Kevin Gilbride said.

The Chargers' front on defense does present a challenge. It is tied with the Ravens at No. 8 in the league against the rush.

The game will feature some interesting matchups: Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown against Chargers left end William Fuller, and San Diego inside linebackers Kurt Gouveia and Junior Seau against Ravens guards Jeff Blackshear and Goeas, and center Quentin Neujahr.

"They have some good defensive players," Goeas said. "They use Junior to run all over the place, to make plays. They shoot him in gaps, use a lot of stunts and stuff to let him blow things up."

On offense, San Diego hasn't done much. If the Ravens can stop the run, then put pressure on immobile quarterback Stan Humphries, they increase their chances to win.

San Diego has the 29th-ranked offense in the league, averaging only 254.3 yards. The team's top scoring threat, kicker John Carney, is out with a sprained right knee. Carney was 7-for-7 on field-goal attempts before getting injured last week. He has been replaced by Greg Davis, released last week by the Minnesota Vikings.

"There has been a tendency to think that John will always get it done, that he is automatic," Gilbride said. "The truth is: He has been impeccable. He's got to be a great loss for us.

"We're in desperate need of a win, for our morale and our psyche. Because of the loss last week and because we're so far behind the 8-ball at this time, we really need it."

Ravens today

Ravens at Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

Time: 4 p.m.

Line: Chargers by 2

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

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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