Thrashing mortifies Modell Boss won't comment on status of coaches for next season

'A step backwards'

Players defend quarterback, coach

November 11, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens owner Art Modell yesterday called the team's 37-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night an embarrassment and would not comment on the status of any of the coaching staff for next season, including head coach Ted Marchibroda.

Marchibroda has one year left on a contract that is believed to pay him nearly $700,000 next season. Modell said any assessment of the staff and players will come at the proper time.

"I will be brief and I will not comment on anyone," said Modell. "But Sunday night's game was an embarrassment to the entire organization including myself, family, the coaching staff and players. It was heart-wrenching to say the least.

"It was a step backwards for the franchise," said Modell. "We will see what happens from here on out for the rest of the season."

The loss was the worst by the Ravens (4-6) in their brief history in Baltimore and the first time the team had been shut out. The Ravens are 8-18 under Marchibroda, and have lost five of their past six games. But the Pittsburgh loss was the most painful because the Ravens, previously one of the least penalized teams in the league, were flagged 11 times for 73 yards.

They committed a comedy of errors, including seven turnovers, six in the first half and three of which were interceptions by quarterback Vinny Testaverde in the first quarter. Then there was backup quarterback Eric Zeier, who threw a pass that hit an official in the head and the team's running back of the future, Jay Graham, getting crushed by the place-kicker on a return in which he fumbled twice.

"It was a disappointing loss," said Marchibroda. "Anytime you get beat like we did, you look at yourself, maybe you could have prepared them a little better."

When asked yesterday at his weekly news conference if he had lost control of his team, Marchibroda said: "I never worry about control of the football team. As long as we practice well, we have a chance to win. If we don't practice well, then I'd become concerned."

Marchibroda said three weeks ago that the Ravens were playing their best football of the season. The Ravens are 1-2, but have played well in two of the three games, with the defense turning in its best efforts since the team moved here.

The problem has been the offense, which has scored 13, 20, 16 and 0 points in the last four games.

What has gone wrong? The Ravens have gone from a pass-happy offense to ball control and keeping their defense off the field, which has worked. But the Ravens can't go more than 12 to 14 plays without committing a turnover.

"We've went from a 30-point offense to what you saw out there," said Ravens receiver Michael Jackson. "That's not us, so where's the problem? Where? What? We've got to find it. We've got to try to get back to where we were."

"We're playing our best defense ever," said Marchibroda. "We know we can move the football; we'll come back. Every team has one game like this. Pittsburgh got blown out in its opener at home. The Panthers and Bills had it happen yesterday. We haven't played too many games like this. This is our first in 26 games. I said we're playing our best football, and time will tell."

The players defended Marchibroda yesterday.

"I have the utmost confidence in him," said Ravens right offensive tackle Orlando Brown. "I'm confident in our game plan every week. We just have to go out and play harder. The turnovers are killing us."

Said center Wally Williams: "Coaches don't commit turnovers. If you commit turnovers in Pittsburgh or in Baltimore in this league, you will get beat. It's that simple."

Testaverde has fumbled eight times in the past five games, and his three interceptions Sunday night led to 10 first-quarter points and took the team out of its offensive game plan of trying to run the ball.

Testaverde played with the flu and suffered from bruised ribs after being hit on the Ravens' third offensive play from the line of scrimmage.

Marchibroda replaced Testaverde with Zeier in the second quarter, but he was just as ineffective completing two of seven passes with one interception and two fumbles. Two passes by the Ravens bounced off receivers into the hands of Pittsburgh defensive backs.

But the Steelers say they have Testaverde figured out.

"We just read him well and take advantage of other things their offense gives us," said Pittsburgh defensive back Carnell Lake. "We know how important it is to get on Vinny early and to make him start to think."

But both Brown and Williams have not lost confidence in Testaverde either.

"I have a lot of faith in Vinny," said Brown. "He works extremely hard. When the first unit is out in practice, he is always in the back running extra gassers. He always prepares himself well, doing the little extra things like studying film. As far as his problems on the field, I can't really answer that. I don't know what is going on with him."

Williams said: "We will live or die with Vinny. We will live or die with any of the three quarterbacks we have. Vinny is a proven quarterback, he is a Pro Bowler and he'll get the job done. There is no doubt about that."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. TV/Radio:

Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Eagles by 1 1/2

Pub Date: 11/11/97

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