Defensive backfield absorbs a beating Daniel, Herring, R. Jones depart with injuries, leave patchwork secondary

Cardinals 16, Ravens 13

November 24, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Who were those guys?

Even at full strength, the Ravens' secondary is easily the most maligned segment of their much-improved defense. And after suffering game-ending injuries to starting cornerback Eugene Daniel and safeties Kim Herring and Rondell Jones, the Ravens were forced to play much of the fourth quarter of yesterday's 16-13 loss to Arizona with a patchwork lineup in the defensive backfield.

The results were as unpleasant as the faces were strange.

Check out the names comprising the dime pass coverage package charged with stopping the Cardinals in the final 34 seconds. Down to their last six defensive backs, the Ravens turned to all of them, including seldom-used reserve safety Bennie Thompson and rookie safety Ralph Staten, who has been inactive on Sundays for half of the season.

Then there was second-year cornerback DeRon Jenkins, pressed into duty early in the fourth quarter when Daniel tore a hamstring and had to be helped off the field.

Jenkins suffered the most in the glare of the crunch-time spotlight. After Arizona had moved the ball from its 20 to its 42 as time wound down, Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer, benefiting from a light pass rush that is a basic feature of the "prevent" defense, lofted a pass down the right sideline to wide receiver Rob Moore. Jenkins stretched out his hand and barely deflected the pass, but to no avail.

The completion went for 27devastating yards. Two plays later, kicker Joe Nedney's 43-yard field goal highlighted a 10-point quarter that sank the Ravens as time expired.

"When you stop and think of the people that were in there on that last drive -- I don't want to name names -- but if you just stop and think, there were guys that haven't played that much," coach Ted Marchibroda said.

Jenkins has played more than most reserves, although that experience didn't help him with nine minutes left. In a bittersweet sequence that began with the Cardinals in a first-and-goal situation at the Ravens' 9, Jenkins broke up passes intended for Moore and Frank Sanders. Then, on fourth-and-goal at the 4, Sanders battled Jenkins for position coming off the line of scrimmage, slipped inside about a step away from him and caught a perfectly thrown pass by Plummer for a touchdown.

"I felt real good about things [on the first two plays]. I know I've got the ability to play that way," Jenkins said. "But it's tough on a young corner in this league. Still, I have to step up and make the plays when we need them.

"The nature of the game is you never know when your number is going to be called. You're always a play away from being in the ballgame."

Judging by the severity of Daniel's injury, Jenkins could be quite involved in the Ravens' four remaining games. Daniel was still in visible pain in the post-game locker room.

"I don't think I've had a hamstring ever feel worse than it feels right now," said Daniel, a 14-year veteran who was signed two months ago.

"It hurts the secondary, without a doubt, when two or three guys go down, and you bring in guys who have barely played, especially with the game on the line."

Said cornerback Antonio Langham: "We had some new faces out there, but that's going to happen in this league. I thought they did all right."

The first bad sign for the defensive backfield came with 6: 08 left in the first quarter, when Herring-- who has nearly taken the starting free safety job from Jones -- left the game with a mild concussion after tackling punt returner Kevin Williams.

Then came Daniels' injury. Then, Jones, who had picked off his first pass of 1997 late in the third quarter, went down with a pulled groin muscle with about 11 minutes left. Staten replaced him.

In the end, the Ravens were left to win a game with a group of second-teamers. Like Donny Brady, who was benched two months ago in favor of Daniel. Like Thompson, who was playing with a fractured left hand.

"We might not get the reps in practice during the week, but the guys who were out there at the end still get the mental reps," Thompson said. "I personally think the guys who stepped in did a pretty decent job. But this [loss] is disgusting."

Winning drive

The Cardinals drove 55 yards in the final 34 seconds to set up their winning field goal yesterday. A breakdown:

.. .. .. .. ..Yd.

Down .. .. ...line .. .. .. .. .Details

1-10 .. .. ...C20 .. .. .. .. ..Plummer pass to Rob Moore, 11 yards

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..(Arizona calls timeout at : 25)

1-10 .. .. ...C31 .. .. .. .. ..Plummer pass incomplete

2-10 .. .. ...C31 .. .. .. .. ..Offside call against Ravens' Boulware

2-5 .. .. .. .C36 .. .. .. .. ..Plummer pass to Centers, 6 yards

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..(Centers pushed out of bounds at : 15)

1-10 .. .. ...C42 .. .. .. .. ..Plummer pass to Moore, 27 yards

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..(Moore runs out of bounds at : 07)

1-10 .. .. ...R31 .. .. .. .. ..Plummer pass to Edwards, 6 yards

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..(Arizona calls timeout at : 03)

2-4 .. .. .. .R25 .. .. .. .. ..Nedney 43 FG

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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