Gilbride's moves leave Ravens looking like pawns

From The Sidelines

September 29, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Kevin Gilbride knows how to exploit the Ravens' secondary.

The San Diego Chargers coach was Jacksonville's offensive coordinator last year when the Jaguars stormed from behind in the fourth quarter to win both games against the Ravens.

Gilbride, who had an assist from a former Ravens assistant, Mike Sheppard, who is now the Chargers' offensive coordinator, was up to his old tricks yesterday as he won the offense-defense chess match.

He put together schemes that left the porous Ravens secondary looking bewildered, as Tony Martin ran free on what appeared to be busted coverages by the cornerbacks for three touchdown catches. Gilbride's version was that they wanted to match Martin against the safeties. The winners call it good execution. The losers blame mistakes. And the Chargers won, 21-17.

The Ravens are so thin in the secondary that when Antonio Langham went out for a play at the end of the third quarter, Martin immediately burned the corner who replaced him, DeRon Jenkins, for the game-winning score.

The Ravens made an overdue move and benched cornerback Donny Brady for veteran Eugene Daniel at halftime. Daniel picked off a pass, almost grabbed two others and added stability to the secondary, which held the Chargers to that one touchdown pass in the second half.

It didn't help that the Ravens didn't put much heat on quarterback Stan Humphries, sacking him only once, and he had time to pass for 358 yards and three touchdowns.

If the Chargers hadn't turned the ball over three times -- on two interceptions (Humphries was booed despite a career high in passing yards) and a fumble -- the Chargers would have won easily.

As it was, the Ravens had a chance to pull the game out when they got the ball twice in the final five minutes, on their 46 and the Chargers' 36.

That's when a good team overcomes earlier mistakes -- and some controversial officiating calls -- and pulls out the victory.

The Ravens aren't good enough yet to do that, and they were the victims of their mistakes. It was probably too much to expect the Ravens to win four straight games or three straight road games.

Highlights and lowlights of a frustrating loss for the Ravens: Turning point: Vinny Testaverde scrambled to the 11-yard line on a second-and-10 at the Chargers' 24 with 1: 58 left. But Leo Goeas was called for holding, putting the Ravens into a second-and-20 at the 34. Goeas insisted that he didn't hold, to no avail. Ryan Yarborough failed to come down with a catchable ball, and Testaverde got hit as he threw the last pass, which was intercepted.

Instant replay: Referee Gerald Austin ruled that Terrell Fletcher fumbled at the Ravens' 38 after catching a 15-yard pass. After a long delay, during which the replay was shown on the scoreboard, the officials ruled that he was down before he fumbled and gave the ball back to the Chargers, who scored the winning touchdown on the next play. The officials insisted that they didn't look at the replay, which appeared to show Fletcher was down. Plays like that will help revive the debate whether to bring back instant replay.

Newcomer: Eugene Daniel is the answer to that trivia question: Who played more games in a Colts uniform than any other player except for Johnny Unitas. He did all that in Indianapolis and now he's a welcome addition to the Ravens' secondary. He showed he can still play at 36 after the Colts didn't re-sign him. He made an immediate impact after replacing Donny Brady to start the third quarter. Look for him to start next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Testaverde file: After playing well for three straight weeks, Testaverde didn't have one of his better days. He had two chances in the last five minutes to put together a game-winning drive and didn't do it. On the first possession, he lofted a pass too high to Michael Jackson into double coverage that Michael Dumas intercepted. He got little help on the second drive, when a holding call put the Ravens into a long-yardage situation and Yarborough failed to come down with a pass that would have kept the drive alive. Testaverde also got Jermaine Lewis drilled in the first quarter when he left him vulnerable with a high pass.

Battering Bam: Bam Morris, returning from a four-game suspension, didn't look as if he had missed a beat during the layoff, as he rushed 17 times for 81 yards. Don't be surprised if he starts next week, especially since he'll be motivated against his former team, the Steelers.

Miscue: You're quite a Ravens fan if you've heard of Tyrell Peters, a free-agent rookie linebacker from Oklahoma signed after he was cut by the Seattle Seahawks. He got noticed for all the wrong reasons when he pushed a San Diego player in the back to nullify Lewis' kickoff return for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter. To make it worse, Morris was in position to make a block when Peters made the push.

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