Game 1: New era, old errors

Steelers 20, Ravens 13

Ravens bring mistakes of past to stadium in 'disappointing' opener; 'Our fans deserved better'; Kicks, punt botched; Harbaugh hurts finger

September 07, 1998|By Mike Preston | Sun reporter

It took the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland nearly 14 years to get a new stadium constructed, and the Ravens only three hours and one minute to lose their first game in the facility. The new $223 million stadium was a house of horror for the Ravens, who self-destructed and had their coming-out party ruined in a 20-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers before 68,847 at Ravens stadium at Camden Yards.

After three days of glitz and pageantry ended and the smoke cleared, the Ravens had committed a comedy of errors that made them look a lot like the team that played at Memorial Stadium, winning only 10 games the past two seasons. If this team was supposed to exorcise the ghosts of John Unitas, Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore, it will have to wait at least until next Sunday, when the Ravens (0-1) go on the road to play the New York Jets.

"Our fans deserved better," said Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. "By no account did we make an impressive showing for ourselves or a statement in this new stadium. We'll give them a better show in three weeks against the Bengals. We got some business to take care of next week against the Jets."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said: "This was a disappointing loss; it hurts a great deal and it hurts this football club. Because when you put what they did into it during the off-season, when they worked so hard in training camp, and you come up with a loss in a big game like this, it hurts. When there is a play to be made, we have to make it. We have to cut down on mistakes."

By the time the Ravens decided to minimize mistakes, the Steelers had taken a 20-3 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Kordell Stewart to wide receiver Charles Johnson with 10 minutes left in the game. The Ravens' Matt Stover kicked a 25-yard field goal with 6: 56 remaining and quarterback Eric Zeier threw a short pass that receiver Jermaine Lewis turned into a 64-yard touchdown with 2: 48 left, but the Ravens had dug too deep a hole.

What went wrong?

The Ravens didn't make big plays: Cornerback Rod Woodson dropped an interception that would have been a touchdown midway through the first quarter. Running back Priest Holmes tripped over his own feet coming off a block from wide receiver Michael Jackson in the first quarter, so what should have been a 27-yard touchdown run turned into a 4-yard gain -- 1 short of a first down -- leading to a 41-yard field goal by Stover. Lewis dropped two passes, one a potential 54-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Stover missed three field-goal attempts.

Now the ugly stuff:

Bad snaps accounted for two of Stover's misses. Harper Le Bel snapped high on a 42-yard attempt to open the second quarter, then snapped low on another 42-yarder that was wide left with 8: 52 remaining in the half. Le Bel then snapped low on a punt attempt by Kyle Richardson with 2: 58 left in the third quarter, with the punter eventually covering the ball at the Ravens' 5. Three plays later, Stewart dived over from the 1.

And there was Ravens left guard Wally Williams, who twice was called for illegal procedure on third-and-short situations.

The first one was extremely costly because Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh chipped a bone in the ring finger of his right (throwing) hand on the next play when knocked to the ground by cornerback Carnell Lake with 8: 57 left in the half.

Harbaugh, who completed four of seven passes for 33 yards, should know by the middle of this week if he will be able to play against the Jets. Harbaugh was one of the two iron-man veterans the Ravens brought in this season. The other was Woodson, who left with back spasms with 10: 22 left.

"It was very frustrating to come out of the first game," Harbaugh said. "We tried everything from tape to medication, but I still wasn't able to throw passes of more than 15 to 20 yards on the sideline. I kind of jammed it when I hit the ground. If the bone chip stays where it's at, I could play next week. Hopefully, I can grip the ball in the middle of the week."

Williams had a lot of explaining to do. He is the team's franchise player and held out 24 days of training camp because the team didn't give him a long-term deal during the off-season.

"Jumping offsides was not a camp issue," Williams said. "If it was an issue, then it would be about conditioning and making it through the game. We can't afford to go out there and make

mistakes like we made today, myself included. We had three false starts called. It's a coulda, shoulda, woulda type thing and you can't do that against a team like Pittsburgh."

There is a possibility the Ravens may not be able to work out the kinks until tight end Brian Kinchen, the normal long snapper, completely recovers from a torn tendon in his right thumb. Le Bel also had problems in the preseason.

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