4-6 Ravens at point of no return Slim playoff chances would disappear with home loss to Eagles

'We're in a deep hole'

Also 4-6, Philadelphia faces a similar fate

November 16, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' season has come to this: If they lose today against the Philadelphia Eagles at Memorial Stadium, all that's left in the remaining five games is to play for pride.

"If we lose this one, we're out of it [the playoff race] for sure," said defensive end Michael McCrary. "This is it, just as it is in any game from now on. If we don't win this one, it's for pride after that.

"It's amazing a team like this has put itself in a situation like this. It's a shame."

Even though the Ravens' playoff chances are remote, coach Ted Marchibroda has been optimistic, and he reminded his team last week that the 1994 New England Patriots, 1995 Detroit Lions and 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars were 4-6 teams that rallied to reach the postseason.

"This is a tough time for a team," said Marchibroda, whose Ravens have lost five of their past six games after a 3-1 start. "We've lost two in a row. We got our heads handed to us last Sunday night in Pittsburgh. A time like this can test everybody.

"It's important we hang together, not point fingers, and fight our way out of this. We're in a deep hole and we're going to climb out. Our only way back into the playoff picture is to run the table."

Like the Ravens, the Eagles are 4-6, fourth in their division and fading from the playoff picture.

"I haven't been associated with losing basically throughout my entire coaching career," said Philadelphia coach Ray Rhodes, a former San Francisco 49ers assistant. "This is one of the first times I've been 4-6 since I played for the Giants in the '70s. It's foreign territory and it puts a bad taste in my mouth."

There seems to be a lot working in the Ravens' favor today. The Eagles are giving second-year quarterback Bobby Hoying his first NFL start, and the team's offensive line and special teams are major weak points.

But with the Ravens, something always seems to go wrong or one unit doesn't show up.

"We just haven't gotten it done a lot of times," McCrary said. "Unfortunately for us, one group gets it done and the other doesn't. It's been that way most of the season."

Marchibroda, though, made several changes this past week to possibly shake up his team after the Ravens were blown out, 37-0, by the Steelers. He benched left guard and first-year player Ben Cavil and replaced him with veteran Leo Goeas. He will not start wide receiver Derrick Alexander because he was late for two recent meetings. Then there are other problems.

The Ravens have to cut down on turnovers, having committed 20 in the past six games. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde has thrown eight interceptions in that time frame and fumbled eight times.

"They're a team that is not going to beat themselves," Marchibroda said of the Eagles. "And we're going to have to bounce back from a game where we kept turning it over. It's not going to happen again to us. We'll be back. I expect us to play well against the Eagles and during the rest of the season."

The Ravens will try to run Bam Morris, especially off tackle, against a small but active Eagles defensive line that has two ends, Greg Jefferson and Mike Mamula, who each weigh under 260 pounds.

But the Eagles' quickness could be a problem for the Ravens on the pass rush. Philadelphia has 29 sacks.

Defensively, the Ravens will go after Hoying with a lot of blitzes and a number of looks. They have to. It's the code of the NFL. Hoying completed only eight of 14 passes for 94 yards in his first real playing time as a professional in the second half of Monday night's 24-12 loss to the 49ers.

"People have to understand that he is going to make his share of mistakes," Rhodes said of Hoying. "He is a young quarterback and those things are going to happen. I also think that he is going to be able to get some things done. But again, he is not going to come in and be perfect."

The Ravens also have to stop the Eagles' running game and unpredictable back Ricky Watters, who has 763 yards on 199 carries.

"He is a game-breaking back, plus he can get the hard yards in long drives," Marchibroda said. "Both he and [fullback] Kevin Turner are excellent catching the ball out of the backfield. Plus, they bring an outstanding back into the game to change pace when Charlie Garner plays."

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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