Ravens can turn Morris loose or suffer consequences again

October 26, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal


Coach Ted Marchibroda should scrawl those three letters on a blackboard at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

On a day when they're carrying Baltimore's grudge, the Ravens need to carry the football.

The magic number is 30. The Ravens can beat the Redskins today if they run that many times. Anything less, and they probably can forget it.

The game plan could not be more obvious, but that doesn't mean the Ravens will follow it. In case you haven't noticed, this team often forgets its script.

Not today, fellas.

Not in The Only Game That Matters.

Not against the hated 'Skins.

Two first-quarter turnovers and a 21-3 deficit forced the Ravens to throw against Miami. But whatever catastrophes await today, they need to keep pounding with Bam Morris.

The Redskins rank 29th in the NFL against the run. Their opponents average 4.4 yards per carry. Their star defensive tackle, Sean Gilbert, is still waiting for the team to pay him $5 million.


The Redskins' best defensive players are their veteran cornerbacks, Darrell Green and Cris Dishman. The Ravens can't rely on their wide receivers to carry their offense.


That is the Ravens' plan.

They need to stick to it.

A strong running game enables a team to wear down opponents, control the clock, protect leads.

At every level of football, it is the mark of a winner.

Conversely, a team with an offense as imbalanced as the Ravens' is almost always a loser, unless Bill Walsh is your coach and Joe Montana your quarterback.

The Ravens throw when ahead. They throw when behind. They throw at the goal line. They throw, because it's what they trust the most, what they do best.

And yet, it gets them nowhere.

The Ravens rank first in the NFL in passing yards, but they're 3-4. They rank first in the NFL in passing yards, and they've lost three straight games.

How can this be happening when they've got a strong offensive line and the talented Morris as their feature back?

Because they played in a panic the second half against Pittsburgh. And because they played from behind the entire game against Miami.

The Ravens attempted only 34 rushes in those two losses. They had a season-high 35 in their victory over Cincinnati, 28 in their victory over Tennessee.

The connection should be obvious.

Running the ball reduces quarterback Vinny Testaverde's margin for error. Running the ball keeps the Ravens' beleaguered defense off the field.

And yet, the Ravens rank 29th in the NFL in rushing attempts, ahead of only 1-6 Cincinnati. They're averaging nearly 41 passes per game, but only 23 runs.

To be sure, Marchibroda has come a long way from "Hey, diddle diddle, Lydell up the middle." On first down alone, the Ravens have attempted more than twice as many passes (97) as runs (39).

OK, the offense is less predictable.

But is this any way to win consistently?

Marchibroda knows the best attack is a balanced attack, proved it in his days as Buffalo's offensive coordinator. From 1989 to '91, his K-Gun offense produced the exact same number of runs and passes -- and the Bills went to two Super Bowls.

The K-Gun, of course, was a no-huddle, pass-oriented attack, but the Bills ran with Thurman Thomas, and ran when they had the lead. Morris isn't Thomas, but he ranked second in the NFL in rushing over the final seven games last season.

Use him.

Not to raise an unpleasant subject, but how many more chances will the Ravens get before they're again down to 35-year-old Earnest Byner and rookies Jay Graham and Priest Holmes at running back?

Morris' bail revocation hearing in Texas is Nov. 25. And even if he avoids going to jail, the Ravens can't plan around such an unreliable player next season.

They'll probably need to sign another free agent to replace him, but the reason they've stuck with Morris this long is because he's so gifted. They might as well enjoy those gifts now. Morris is going to waste, in more ways than one.

Today is the day to give him the ball 30 times, and shout, "Go!"

The Ravens can win this game. Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte is struggling. Running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Michael Westbrook are injured. The Ravens' defense has no excuse to play as poorly as it did against Miami.

Still, the game will be won by offense.

The magic number is 30. If the Ravens run that many times, it will mean they didn't revert to their familiar pattern. It will mean that they didn't fall too far behind. It will mean that they probably controlled the game.


Running on empty

A game-by-game breakdown of the Ravens' rushing offense, which ranks 27th in the NFL:

Opponent ........ Att. .. Yards .. Avg.

Jacksonville .... 17 ...... 72 ... 4.2

Cincinnati ...... 35 ..... 146 ... 4.2

at N.Y. Giants .. 21 ...... 63 ... 3.0

at Tennessee .... 28 ...... 89 ... 3.2

at San Diego .... 25 ..... 111 ... 4.4

Pittsburgh ...... 18 ...... 52 ... 2.9

Miami ........... 16 ...... 54 ... 3.4

Totals ......... 160 ..... 587 ... 3.7

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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