Bottoms up: Drink in a perfectly awful performance

November 10, 1997|By John Eisenberg

PITTSBURGH -- If you didn't pop a tape into the VCR and record the Ravens' 37-0 loss to the Steelers last night, well, you blew it.

You missed a chance to preserve the sight of the Ravens giving a performance for the ages, one that will never be topped.

Or bottomed, if you will.

A pro football team simply can't play any worse than the Ravens did last night.

Remember Leonard Pinth Garnell, the "Saturday Night Live" devotee of really bad cinema and really bad theater?

This one was for him.

A classic, four-star performance of really bad football.

Stunningly bad, actually, for a Ravens team that had played pretty well the past two weeks.

If you did happen to tape it, you might think twice before you erase it in disgust.

You can always sell the tape to a friend in Cleveland for big money.

More than a few folks there would love to find copies of this embarrassment to Team Modell under their Christmas trees.

It was so bad that ESPN broke away for commercials while the game was going on.

So bad that censors met in emergency session at halftime to debate whether the Ravens were suitable for a national TV audience.

Ba-dum-bum!

The big issue all night wasn't whether the Ravens would win; it was clear early on that they wouldn't.

The big issue was whether they would finish with more penalties or turnovers.

The halftime score was Penalties 7, Turnovers 6.

Quite a nail-biter.

The final score, in a thriller, was Penalties 11, Turnovers 7.

Basically, the Ravens weren't even close to being ready to play a huge game for them.

They started horribly, with four penalties in the first four minutes, and got worse. They didn't keep up the penalty-a-minute pace, but they tried.

Blame the coaches, blame the players, blame anyone who has anything to do with the on-field product.

Actually, don't put much of the blame on the defense, which didn't play badly considering that the offense seemed intent on filming its version of a Marx Brothers comedy, particularly in the first half.

The offense turned the ball over six times in the first 30 minutes, but the Steelers led by only 20-0 -- about the minimum margin.

The Steelers totaled only three points from three drives that started in Ravens territory in the last seven minutes of the second quarter.

Not that it mattered, of course, because the Ravens weren't going to catch up even if they had 20 more quarters to play, much less two.

Their offense was so bad that, well, let's just say Modell is lucky he has most of his PSL money in the bank.

Those next payments might come in a little more slowly after last night's ineptitude.

Say this much for the offense: It wasn't in a teasing mood.

It never gave the fans a chance to think this might be anything less than a total disaster.

On the game's first play, guard Jeff Blackshear moved before the snap for a 5-yard penalty.

Then Bam Morris was tackled for a 5-yard loss on a sweep around left end.

One play later, quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw a pass that deflected off tight end Eric Green and was intercepted.

A week of preparation for that.

The Steelers quickly turned the turnover into a touchdown, then intercepted Testaverde on each of the next two series.

Testaverde left the game at that point, suffering from bruised ribs, flu-like symptoms and a tendency to throw into double coverage.

Imagine that, pulling a guy pitching a perfect game (three series, three interceptions).

Coach Ted Marchibroda inserted backup Eric Zeier, hoping for a spark or at least for something other than an interception on every series.

How did Zeier do? Let's just say there's no quarterback controversy in Baltimore.

Zeier's first pass deflected off Green and was intercepted.

His second pass hit an official square in the face.

His third and fourth passes were incomplete.

His fifth pass was, well, he faded into the pocket and fumbled when Greg Lloyd sacked him.

His sixth pass was completed for 3 yards.

One play later, he fumbled the snap from center.

Zeier's first outing of the season was so awful that Testaverde, bruised ribs and all, was put back into the game at the start of the third quarter.

Marchibroda could have put in third-teamer Wally Richardson, but, according to league rules, he couldn't have used Testaverde or Zeier the rest of the night.

Please insert your own punch line here.

How bad was it?

So bad that kicker Matt Stover was on the field for exactly one play -- the second-half kickoff, which he booted to the goal line.

If he wasn't the Ravens' game MVP, he was close.

How bad was it? So bad that the Steelers converted only one of their first 11 third-down chances in the first 38 minutes, yet still built a 30-point lead.

That's right, the Steelers' offense was close to inept, too, failing to sustain any drives.

No matter.

With the Ravens providing the room service -- turnovers everywhere -- they didn't need to drive the ball to score.

It was ugly, ugly, ugly.

No wonder ESPN decided to show commercials instead of football.

The Ravens weren't fit for public consumption last night.

Biggest losses

Last night's loss was by far the worst in Ravens' history. Their largest margins of defeat:

Date .. .. ..Opp. .. .. ..Score .. .. ..Margin

11/9/97 .. ..at Pit. .. ...37-0 .. .. .. ...37

11/17/96 .. .at S.F. .. ..38-20 .. .. .. ...18

9/15/96 .. ..at Hou. .. ..29-13 .. .. .. ...16

9/8/96 .. ...at Pit. .. ..31-17 .. .. .. ...14

10/20/96 .. .at Den. .. ..45-34 .. .. .. ...11

10/19/97 .. .Mia. .. .. ..24-13 .. .. .. ...11

Pub Date: 11/10/97

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