As terrible as Oilers were, Ravens that much worse

From The Sidelines

October 12, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The Ravens met the enemy yesterday.

It was wearing a Ravens uniform.

The record will show that the Tennessee Oilers beat the Ravens, 12-8, but it would be misleading to call this an Oilers victory.

This was a game the Ravens lost more than the Oilers won. It was an ugly game filled with mistakes on both sides.

The Oilers tried to self-destruct. They were twice called for delay-of-game penalties. They had too many men on the field twice. They had first downs on the Ravens' 12, 36, 31, 19 and 25 on five drives and came away with two field goals. They were penalized 13 times, gave up a safety, threw an interception and got their only touchdown on a busted play.

Yet the Oilers won because the Ravens were even worse.

"When you go out there and beat yourself, that's tough," linebacker Peter Boulware said.

The Ravens' offense, which coach Ted Marchibroda said looked like a machine against the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago, sputtered and looked like it needed a valve job. The special teams were horrid, as usual. Harper Le Bel reverted to his form of the Pittsburgh game and was guilty of five bad snaps on punts. The Ravens were fortunate the Oilers blocked only one.

What was frustrating about the loss is that it came after a good showing against Cincinnati. It's almost as if the Ravens get satisfied after a good showing and aren't mature enough to do it week in and week out.

"I don't know if it's being content with winning [two weeks ago]," right tackle Orlando Brown said. "I don't think it's that. But it's a hard question to answer."

With Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Jacksonville coming up, the Ravens could fall to 2-6 and be out of it before they hit the softer part of their schedule in the second half.

Highlights and lowlights of a game that showed how far the Ravens have to go:

Turning point: The Ravens were trailing 12-8 with about nine minutes left when they had a third-and-one at the Tennessee 41. Priest Holmes was stuffed in two shots at it and the Ravens gave the ball up on downs.

Zeier file: If Eric Zeier is going to be the quarterback of the future, he has to play better than he did yesterday. He was hampered by the injuries to Michael Jackson and Eric Green, but he had Patrick Johnson back and couldn't take advantage of the fact the Oilers geared up to stop the run. Zeier still has trouble sensing the rush, was sacked three times, threw an interception and didn't produce a touchdown.

Stopping the run: The Oilers played eight men in the box to handcuff Holmes. He had just 29 yards in 14 carries. Brown noted that strong safety Blaine Bishop kept coming up to the line as another linebacker. "I blocked him a couple of times myself," Brown said. The Ravens couldn't counter the strategy because they didn't get the passing game going until they virtually abandoned the run and went to the no huddle with three wide receivers.

Stopping Lewis: The Oilers took Jermaine Lewis out of the game. He was held to one catch for 9 yards and had just 20 yards on punt returns. With Jackson out, the Oilers had the luxury of double-teaming Lewis. "They were running some coverages to take him away. They were doing some doubling," Zeier said.

Third-down frustration: The Ravens failed to convert on their first 13 third-down attempts, including a third-and-one at the Tennessee 41 midway in the final quarter. They finally made one on their 14th try in the last minute, when it was too late. The Ravens wound up 1-for-15 on third downs. "They had a good scheme against us on third down to take us out of the things we wanted to do," Zeier said.

Bad snaps: Le Bel probably cost himself a job with his five bad snaps. But why didn't the Ravens replace him after he misfired against Pittsburgh? Don't feel sorry for Le Bel, though. As a vested veteran, he'll walk away with his entire $325,000 salary.

Miscommunication: On the Ravens' first third down of the second half, Jeff Mitchell snapped the ball while Zeier was trying to check off to a different play. It wound up being an aborted play and the Ravens had to punt. "He snapped it on the first sound. We were trying to change the play. It's nobody's fault," Zeier said.

Bad strategy: After Steve McNair's 40-yard touchdown run made it 6-2 in the first quarter, the Oilers decided to go for a two-point conversion. Michael McCrary stopped Eddie George, but the Oilers shouldn't have gone for two that early in the game. It makes more sense to take the automatic one point than gamble for two because the odds are against making the two-point conversion. As it turned out, the Oilers didn't need the point they gave up.

Ill-timed penalty: Green was guilty of a false start on a third-and-seven play at the Oilers' 49. That made it third-and-12 and probably cost the Ravens a first down on the next play when Lewis caught a 9-yard pass -- his only catch of the game.

Slow on the trigger: With 1: 01 left in the second quarter, McNair threw an 11-yard pass on third-and-14. The Ravens then stood around and let about 10 seconds run off the clock before calling a timeout with 39 seconds left. They could have used those seconds later, when they got to the Oilers' 38 as time expired. Marchibroda's explanation: "I called it as quick as it came to my mind."

Looking ahead: The Ravens now go to play a Pittsburgh team that is struggling this year. The Steelers, who got a gift from the Ravens in the opener, are vulnerable, but owner Art Modell's team always has a tough time at Three Rivers Stadium. The Browns/Ravens are 4-24 in regular-season games there.

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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