For Ravens, short yardage a tall order Offense bogs down after Jets jam line in Sunday's defeat

'A matter of not executing'

On 3rd or 4th and short, team was only 4-for-13

November 04, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Maybe Ravens left offensive guard Leo Goeas summed it up %% best when he indicted the entire team for its numerous short-yardage failures in Sunday's 19-16 overtime loss to the New York Jets. %%

%% "The Jets didn't do anything we didn't expect," said Goeas. "It was a matter of us not executing. The blame is all-inclusive as far as players, coaches, officials, everybody."

The Ravens compiled a total of 447 yards of total offense, including 130 yards rushing by Bam Morris and 288 passing from quarterback Vinny Testaverde, but when it came to crunch as well as crush time, the team wasn't successful, losing its fourth out of the past five games.

Three times, the Ravens, with the largest offensive line in the NFL, averaging 321.1 pounds, faced less than 2 yards on third down and couldn't convert. Twice on third-and-one during the Ravens' first two possessions of the game, 250-pound running back Bam Morris was stopped for no gain.

Then on a third-and-two at the Jets' 4 with 1: 07 left in the half, Morris ran off left tackle and lost 2 yards. It didn't seem to matter which side Morris ran to or whether the Ravens used two tight ends, three receivers or a heavy jumbo (a package with Green and Goeas as tight ends and fullback Kenyon Cotton), there was no room.

"In some situations, we were victimized by bad spots," said Morris.

"Then there were times when we just missed some blocks," said Testaverde, whose offensive line outweighed the Jets by an average of more than 30 pounds.

Actually, what the Jets did out of their 3-4 defense was cram their linebackers, Dwayne Gordon and Marvin Jones, near the line of scrimmage so the Ravens' bigger guards couldn't get a running start on them. Then New York had its strong safety, Victor Green, repeatedly crash the line of scrimmage.

On Morris' first third-down run off left guard, Jones and Green combined to make the tackle. On the second run, nose guard Ernie Logan and outside linebacker Mo Lewis penetrated to make the stop. Then in the second quarter, Green and Gordon stopped Morris. Gordon finished with 12 tackles, and Green had 11.

The plays were especially disappointing because Morris had rushed for first downs on all four third-and-one situations this season and fellow running back Earnest Byner was 4-for-5.

"I think the Jets looked at the Redskins film and saw what we did to the Redskins when they played back off the line of scrimmage," said Goeas. "We knew the Jets would pack it in, but they did it much more than we anticipated."

Testaverde said: "Their safety did a great job of filling the hole hard. Sometimes Bam was able to beat or break the tackles; other times he wasn't. A lot of times you don't see safeties come in as hard when it's Bam running the ball."

But the Ravens were just as incompetent passing on third-and-short situations, and they didn't mix in the play-action passes with the run. Faced with a third-and-one at the Jets' 24 with about seven minutes left in the first quarter, Testaverde overthrew slot receiver Jermaine Lewis in the right flat.

Nice try, bad call. Lewis, 5 feet 6, ran a 2-yard pattern parallel to the line of scrimmage, forcing Testaverde to throw over Gordon, 6-1. The Ravens had to settle for a 42-yard field goal from Matt Stover.

"I don't think Testaverde ever saw him," said Gordon. "It was kind of a weird play because Lewis just seemed to be drifting and Testaverde had to guess where he was."

The Ravens had another opportunity on their next series. On second-and-goal from the Jets' 4, cornerback Otis Smith knocked down a pass from Testaverde to Michael Jackson in the left corner of the end zone. On the next play, neither Jackson nor Lewis was open in the middle, and Testaverde had to throw the ball away.

Enter Stover, who kicked a 22-yard field goal.

The Ravens' other failure came with about seven minutes left in the game. On third-and-two from the Jets' 13, Testaverde overthrew tight end Eric Green, who had a step on the New York safety in the middle of the field at the 1. On the next play, Alexander ran a short hitch and was open, but slipped and fell at about the 8.

"It was wet, the ball was heavy and it was hard to put the ball where you wanted it," Testaverde said.

"If I throw the ball a little lower and a little more inside to Eric Green, then it's a touchdown. But sometimes when you threw the ball too hard in those conditions, it just took off on you."

The mistakes, slips, bad spots and poor blocks allowed the Ravens to collect only 13 points on four possessions inside the Jets' 20. Before Sunday, the Ravens had the fourth-highest point total in the red zone among AFC teams. In 25 possessions, the Ravens had scored 11 touchdowns and kicked 13 field goals.

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