Special teams' penalties prove costly 1st-half mistakes continue disturbing trend, ruin chance for halftime lead

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

September 21, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino | Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF Michael DiRocco contributed to this article.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They entered the game with 16 penalties in their first two games, and the Ravens continued a disturbing trend with seven more against the Jaguars yesterday, at a cost of 54 yards. This time, their special teams produced the day's biggest clunkers.

Just after Jacksonville scored the game's first points on a 52-yard run by Fred Taylor midway through the first quarter, Jermaine Lewis appeared to give the Ravens a shot of adrenalin with a 50-yard return to midfield. Bring it back. Donny Brady was flagged for holding, costing the Ravens 30 yards on the play, as they began the possession at their 20. Four plays and six yards later, they punted.

With 39 seconds left in the first half, the special teams added a forgettable sequence. After forcing a Jaguars punt at the Ravens' 44, Jacksonville punter Bryan Barker pinned the Ravens on their 7. A holding penalty on Floyd Turner pinned them back a bit farther on their 4.

Nine yards and three plays later, Ravens punter Kyle Richardson uncorked a 66-yard bomb that swung field position back in Baltimore's favor. But wait a second. Cornell Brown was called for holding, forcing a re-kick. On the ensuing, 48-yard punt, Jacksonville's Reggie Barlow beat everyone down the right sideline except Richardson, who saved a touchdown by tackling him at the Ravens' 16.

The Jaguars had to settle for a game-tying, 34-yard field goal by Mike Hollis with six seconds left, but it hardly offered the Ravens a boost in morale.

"Penalties are a big part of what have hurt us, and we did it to ourselves again today," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We kept that kid [Richardson] here because we thought he could make a punt that would win a ballgame for us, and that was a punt that might have won the game.

"We could have gone in [at halftime] up 10-7, then we get a penalty and it kicks us back."

Coming up short

Richardson was one of the busier players on the field, which is never a good sign for an offense. The Ravens went three-and-out eight times yesterday. Richardson punted 10 times, averaging 49.1 yards per punt. That, of course, doesn't include the aforementioned 66-yarder.

For all he did, though, Richardson probably would like to file away his third-quarter showing permanently. Neither of his two punts was much help to the Ravens. He shanked a 29-yarder to the Jaguars' 30 early in the quarter, when he could have pinned the Jaguars close to their goal line. They drove for the touchdown that pretty much put away the game.

Richardson's last punt of the quarter traveled just 36 yards to midfield, although Jacksonville later failed to convert, when Rod Woodson blocked a 25-yard field-goal attempt by Hollis with 57 seconds left.

Running on empty

For all of the preseason talk about what a fine running game the Ravens have -- what with speedy tailback Jay Graham, the additions of tailback Errict Rhett and fullback Roosevelt Potts and their massive offensive line -- the early results indicate that hype is outweighing reality.

Through three games, the Ravens have rushed for a solid 315 yards, although they are averaging an unspectacular 3.6 yards a carry on 87 attempts. Yesterday, they averaged only 3.2 yards on 25 attempts, and were especially ineffective on first down.

"There are some things to work on, starting with myself. I've got to look at my reads. I've got to look at a lot of things," said Graham, who started in place of the injured Rhett (hamstring) and gained just 67 yards on 20 carries.

Meanwhile, Potts was far more visible as a pass receiver than a runner (one carry, 2 yards). On the season, Potts has 29 yards on 13 rushes. And Rhett, who entered the game with a 5.7-yard average on 24 carries, spent the afternoon on the sidelines.

"I worked out pretty good, and I was always ready. I guess they decided to stick with what they had," Rhett said. "I'm not going to look back on the past. I just want to get a win and put this one behind us."

Four receivers

Marchibroda lamented the Ravens' poor tackling, and second-year linebacker Jamie Sharper contributed some memorable bloopers in that department.

Sharper's first-half performance was not one for the books.

His nightmare started midway through the first quarter when tight end Pete Mitchell slipped behind him, gathered in a perfect pass from quarterback Mark Brunell and rumbled 38 yards to the Jacksonville 48. On the next play, Sharper blew an attempt to tackle Taylor, who had cut back against the grain, then went on to complete a 52-yard scoring run for the game's first touchdown.

Four minutes into the second quarter, Sharper missed Taylor again on a swing pass in the flat. Taylor turned what should have been a no-gain into a 17-yarder.

As shaky as Sharper was, outside linebacker Peter Boulware was just as sure-handed. Boulware recorded six tackles, including five solos, and he also led the Ravens with two sacks.

Neujahr tells all

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