3-0 Ravens do it again on defense Dominating effort leads way past Eagles, 23-6, extends preseason roll

Starting offense struggles

Zeier is impressive in 11-for-15 2nd half

August 25, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

It was a typical preseason game, boring and often sloppy, but at the same time an illustration of how far the Ravens have come during their three years in Baltimore.

The Ravens used a complete defensive effort and the second-unit offense bailed out the first group in a 23-6 to win over the Philadelphia Eagles before 65,970 at Later To Be Named Stadium at Camden Yards.

Ravens second-string quarterback Eric Zeier completed 11 of 15 passes for 159 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Patrick Johnson with 5: 04 left in the third quarter to break open the game as the Ravens took a 17-6 lead.

It was a third straight stellar performance by the first defensive unit in the preseason as the Ravens held the Eagles to 149 yards of total offense, including only 38 yards rushing. The Ravens also finished with three sacks.

The Ravens' linebacking trio was outstanding, particularly third-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who had six tackles in the first half. Weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper also had two tackles, as the Ravens blitzed often to shut down Philadelphia's West Coast offense, which had 47 yards passing in the first half.

As usual, the Ravens' starting defensive front of tackles Tony Siragusa and James Jones and defensive ends Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary dominated the game. The secondary had minor problems, particularly free safety Ralph Staten on pass defense, but the pass rush covered most deficiencies.

"They've played well in every ballgame, and that's what is exciting about our defense," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "But like the rest of us they can still make a few mistakes. During the season that will work against us, but they've played extremely well.

"I think we were able to win a football game without playing close to our best football," Marchibroda said. "We made more mistakes in the first half than we did in the previous two games combined. Thank goodness we were able to still come back and able to win the ballgame making that many mistakes. But starting in two weeks, we're not going to be able to do that."

The Ravens' biggest problems were with the offense, which could muster only 159 yards at the half. The offensive line, which had powered the team to two preseason victories, had troubles with the Eagles, especially right tackle Orlando Brown and left guard Wally Williams, who showed the rust of his 24-day holdout.

"I don't think I played that well," Williams said. "It was a typical first game, I didn't expect anything spectacular. I jumped offside, I went the wrong way on one play. In the second quarter, I started to settle down. I'll go watch film, learn and get accustomed to the new position. I'm glad I got this one out of the way."

Left tackle Jonathan Ogden said: "It's true, he didn't play well. Neither did Orlando. Neither did I. We just had too many breakdowns. Everybody broke down a couple of times. That happens, and when it does, you can't run the football. We made way too many mistakes, but we're human. We'll bounce back."

Because the running game is supposed to be the strength of this team, when the offensive line isn't productive, it can be ugly, especially when a team takes tight end Eric Green out of the offense, as the Eagles did last night.

The Ravens' favorite play was Harbaugh on the scramble. He had 42 yards rushing on five carries. Marchibroda seemed so irritated with his first-team offense that he sent the group out to start the second half. Later in the third quarter, when Marchibroda finally pulled them, they seemed so disappointed with their play that they didn't want to come out.

"I don't know what happened to them," Marchibroda said. "This is an outfit we're counting on, one of the cores of our football team. We couldn't run the football. Our pass protection wasn't the best. We were making mistakes, making errors.

"I didn't want them to leave the way they were playing the game," said Marchibroda. "They had the whole first half to do what they wanted to do in the third quarter."

But thank goodness for the second-string offense. In the past two years, the Ravens' lack of depth has cost them late in games. But Zeier moved the team well, and the touchdown pass to Johnson finished an impressive, six-play, 61-yard drive.

Zeier also had a 50-yard completion to Johnson in the fourth quarter that set up a 33-yard field goal by Matt Stover, putting the Ravens ahead 20-6 with 3: 31 left in the game. That drive was 10 plays and 68 yards and lasted 5: 56.

The second group of offensive linemen, tackles Sammy Williams and Spencer Folau, guards Alex Bernstein and Ben Cavil and center Jeff Mitchell, played well along with fullback Kenyon Cotton and Errict Rhett.

Stover also played well, kicking his final field goal of 25 yards with 1: 57 left in the game.

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