Stadium opens doors to victory Ravens' new home, two-back offense overshadow Bears

65,938 treated to 19-14 win

Harbaugh, defense debut with solid efforts

August 09, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens unveiled their 1998 team last night, and it was a successful coming-out party as Baltimore defeated the Chicago Bears, 19-14, in the preseason opener and first game played at the team's new $220 million stadium before a sellout crowd of 65,938.

Forget about the score and that it was just the Chicago Bears. The Ravens' strategy for the season is plain, yet simple, and finally was put on public display last night.

The Ravens put the game away with 8:49 left to play when quarterback Eric Zeier threw a short hitch pass to rookie receiver Patrick Johnson, who then made a quick move on cornerback Clyde Johnson and turned the pass into a 19-yard touchdown that put the Ravens ahead, 19-7.

But more importantly, the Ravens got a glimpse at their new offensive backfield, and all seemed to receive passing grades. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh completed 10 of 13 passes for 60 yards and one interception and twice scrambled for a total of 28 yards to keep drives alive.

Second-year player Jay Graham rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries and fullback Roosevelt Potts had 14 yards on four carries but threw some nice lead blocks to spring Graham. Running back Errict Rhett, No. 2 on the depth chart, also played well in the second half with 63 yards on 16 carries, even though he seemed to have some problems with his new team's formations.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, who pulled his first offensive unit near the midway point of the second period, succeeded in establishing a running game and having Harbaugh complement

it with a short- to mid-range passing attack. Tight end Eric Green had four receptions for 18 yards in the first half.

Defensively, the Ravens stymied Chicago, which was without holdout running back Curtis Enis. The Bears scored on a 1-yard )) run by quarterback Steve Stenstrom with eight seconds left to make it look close. Their only other points came when a Zeier interception was returned 56 yards by Andre Collins for a touchdown in the third quarter.

The Ravens' front seven, even the reserves, were superb throughout and the Bears never challenged the secondary, especially cornerbacks DeRon Jenkins and Rod Woodson, even though Jenkins was late breaking on two of three passes thrown at him.

"I thought this was a good team victory," said Marchibroda. "By that, I mean offense, defense and special teams all contributed. Errict ran hard, and he is the kind of guy that gets tougher as the game goes on. That was a Jimmy Harbaugh game in the first half. He'll nickel and dime you to death, then run for the big play. Jim makes big plays on the run.

"We have a long way to go, and there were more mistakes than anticipated," said Marchibroda, pointing out several bad snap exchanges on field goals, three interceptions and several offsides. "But overall, it was nice to win because we've lost these kind of games in the past."

Said Harbaugh: "We were in there for three series, and a field goal and touchdown are pretty good results. Three touchdowns would have been great, but I was happy with the results. We did a lot of good things, especially throwing underneath. If our defense continues to play like they did tonight, both the first and second units, we're going to be tough to beat."

Chicago had only 13 yards rushing and 71 passing. The Bears converted on only two of 11 third downs. Meanwhile, the Ravens had nearly a 13-minute advantage in time of possession and finished with 349 total yards. The Ravens converted on 11 of 20 third-down situations and averaged 4.6 yards a carry.

"I think we played great as a team," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis. "Every time they threw or ran, we had a bunch of guys around the ball. Guys played with a lot of enthusiasm and we had fun. This is our new home and we wanted to establish ourselves."

The Ravens led, 9-0, at the half and were never seriously challenged in the first two quarters as they out-gained the Bears, 187-7, in total offense. The Bears had only one first down and didn't convert any third-down situations before halftime.

The Ravens scored on their first drive as Matt Stover finished the short series with a 46-yard field goal with 7: 27 left in the first quarter for a 3-0 lead. The Ravens used 10 plays to cover 36 yards, three of those runs by Graham for 12 yards and two receptions by tight end Eric Green for 11.

But on third-and-three from the Chicago 28, defensive end Mark Thomas knocked down a Harbaugh pass at the line of scrimmage, setting the stage for Stover.

Chicago had one shot at scoring in the half when Harbaugh's pass, intended for Green, hit umpire Bob Wagner in the head and right cornerback Walt Harris caught the deflection and returned it five yards to the Ravens 31 with 4: 18 left in the first quarter.

But Ravens weakside linebacker Jamie Sharper sacked quarterback Erik Kramer for a 6-yard loss on second down and strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware and defensive end Rob Burnett combined for another sack on the next play to end the drive.

The Ravens controlled the ball and the time on their next possession, going 80 yards in 17 plays on a drive that lasted 11:18.

Graham finished the drive -- highlighted by five straight Harbaugh completions -- with a 2-yard run over the right side to TTC put the Ravens ahead 9-0 with 6: 07 left in the half. Punter Kyle Richardson botched the snap on the hold and Stover never got off the extra point.

The Ravens had one more chance to score in the half but reserve quarterback Eric Zeier was intercepted by cornerback Terry Cousin to kill a drive with 1: 50 left in the half.

The Ravens had four sacks in the half, with Burnett collecting 1 1/2 .

Next for Ravens

Opponent: New York Jets

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Saturday, 5 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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