Two-minute warning: Clock runs down on Marchibroda

October 12, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

Three men could be fired as a result of the Ravens' latest flop, a 12-8 loss to the Tennessee Oilers.

The first is long snapper Harper Le Bel, who almost certainly will be gone after botching five snaps and getting beat for a blocked punt.

The second is Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who used nearly $300 million in public funds to lure two NFL teams that are a combined 2-9.

And the third is coach Ted Marchibroda, who likely will be held responsible for a team that almost always stumbles at the moment of truth.

As incumbents, Marchibroda and Redskins coach Norv Turner look even shakier than Glendening.

Just think, Ellen Sauerbrey's next commercial can feature Redskins fans wearing bags over their heads, and Ravens fans booing their stumbling heroes.

Oh, the Republican challenger can draw plenty of material from yesterday's debacle at Camden Yards, and so can Ravens owner Art Modell.

Still, Modell did not seem ready to indict Marchibroda or anyone else when reached last night at his home.

"I am very upbeat about this team. I believe in it. I'm sure my belief will be vindicated," he said. "I'm not going to bail out and sell people out now."

Is he behind Marchibroda?

"I'm behind everybody," Modell said. "We're going to have a good football team before this is over."

Modell's optimism is admirable, but where is it rooted?

The Ravens lost yesterday to a team that yielded 141 yards in penalties, missed a field-goal attempt and blew a two-point conversion.

A team that scored its only touchdown on a busted play, allowed four sacks and threw a fourth-quarter interception.

"This hurts, man. This hurts," defensive end Rob Burnett said. "I'm going to go home and just bury my head. I'm not feeling too good right now."

He wasn't alone.

"I feel like we gave away a couple of games this season -- this, going back to the Pittsburgh game, even the Jacksonville game," linebacker Peter Boulware said. "We're losing because of us, not because of the other team."

Who gets the blame for that ultimately?

The coach.

It hurts to say that yesterday marked the beginning of the end for Marchibroda, a good man who does not deserve to be embarrassed.

But it's the truth.

The Ravens are 2-3, and likely headed for 2-6 with their next three games at Pittsburgh, at Green Bay and home against Jacksonville.

They're 1-2 at their new stadium, 1-3 in the AFC Central, and 12-24-1 since arriving in Baltimore.

The question no longer is whether Marchibroda will be gone.

The question is who will be the next coach for an owner who once fired Paul Brown, and chose Bill Belichick over Bill Cowher.

Marchibroda is in the final year of his contract. Modell said before the season that he wanted to see "considerable improvement" over last year's 6-9-1 record.

What are the odds of that happening now?

True, the Ravens played yesterday without Ray Lewis and Michael Jackson, and also lost Eric Green. But the Oilers lost Yancey Thigpen and several others, and seemed to adjust.

The bottom line is, it's impossible to justify the way this team is performing, especially on offense, which supposedly is Marchibroda's forte.

The Ravens were 1-for-15 on third down yesterday. They rushed for a franchise-low 36 yards. They completed only one pass to Jermaine Lewis, their biggest weapon.

Eric Zeier hardly looked like the quarterback of the future, missing receivers, making poor reads, failing to throw the ball away under pressure.

Only the Ravens could get called for a delay-of-game penalty at the start of a quarter -- a mistake that Zeier said "was just a bad job by me."

But the larger issues -- play-calling, clock management, red-zone offense -- go beyond Zeier.

At the end of the first half, the Ravens did not attempt a field goal after throwing to the wrong players and places upon reaching the Tennessee 45 with 13 seconds left.

They moved the ball better after switching to a no-huddle offense in the second half, but still sputtered at critical moments while the defense held the Oilers to three points.

It was painful to watch.

The Ravens failed to throw into the end zone after getting a first down at the Tennessee 9, and settled for a field goal.

They failed on three straight runs by Priest Holmes to get the 1 yard they needed for a first down at the Tennessee 41.

And they failed to produce the go-ahead touchdown after starting their final drive at their own 11 with 2: 02 left, repeatedly dumping the ball to Holmes in the middle of the field.

"That was the best thing that we could do at that time," Marchibroda said. "They dropped everybody so deep that they gave us Priest. We thought we could get close enough to go for the home run, put the ball in the end zone."

Fat chance -- the Ravens' red-zone success rate is the worst in the league. They never got out of bounds to stop the clock. The game ended with Zeier throwing an interception at the Tennessee 2.

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