With Harbaugh, 2nd-half picture brightens QB throws for 174 yards, breakthrough TD after taking over for Zeier

Ravens Notebook

Packers 28, Ravens 10

October 26, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the fifth time in the Ravens' first seven games, two quarterbacks shared time. After 12-year veteran Jim Harbaugh came off the bench to replace the ineffective Eric Zeier at the start of the second half, coach Ted Marchibroda would not name a starter for next week's game against visiting Jacksonville.

Marchibroda liked what he saw of Harbaugh, who appears to have put his finger and elbow problems behind him. Those injuries limited him in the season's first three games, none of which he was able to finish. Eventually, the injuries sent him to the bench in place of Zeier, who broke out with an excellent effort in the team's 31-24 victory over Cincinnati four weeks ago.

Zeier had gone 0-for-2 since, and his 8-for-19 showing in the first half yesterday, in which he produced only 3 yards of net passing -- thanks to four sacks -- compelled Marchibroda to pull the trigger at halftime.

"We know Eric can play, but what we don't know is can he play for a 16-game season? We put a lot of pressure on him," Marchibroda said. "I felt like we had [receivers] open at times [in the first half], and that maybe Eric threw a little bit late at times. I thought Eric missed a few people. I felt like I had to make a switch.

"I thought Jim threw the best I've seen him throw today. By far, this was the best. I told him that before the game. We'll wait until Wednesday to decide who starts."

Harbaugh had his problems, starting with two interceptions. One of them, thrown from the Ravens' end zone, came after Green Bay defensive tackle Santana Dotson beat guard Jeff Blackshear badly before hitting Harbaugh's right arm as he released the pass. Still, Harbaugh finished with 174 yards passing and a touchdown, while avoiding a sack.

Harbaugh's choice for the starting quarterback? With apologies to Keyshawn Johnson, just give him the ball.

"If it were up to me, that would be my call," Harbaugh said. "I want to take the bull by the horns and get us out of this thing."

Slight consolation

The most unfortunate thing about the moment was that it afforded the Ravens little chance to celebrate.

When Ravens wide receiver Jermaine Lewis beat Green Bay cornerback Craig Newsome for a 46-yard touchdown with 6: 34 left in yesterday's 28-10 loss, it marked the end of a drought that seemingly never would cease.

In reality, all Harbaugh and Lewis combined on was a play that pulled their team within 18 points, in an important game they had no chance of winning at that point. But one could sense a sigh of relief on the Ravens' sideline.

The drought was over. Thirteen quarters had passed without a Raven breaking the plane of the goal line. Thirteen quarters.

"We really didn't think that much of it," Harbaugh said afterward. "We just wanted to score a lot more. We need to score a lot more. I think this offense can play a lot better."

Before Lewis -- who caught three of his six passes on that touchdown drive -- blew past Newsome along the right sideline and ran under Harbaugh's well-thrown ball, the Ravens had missed their opponents' end zones completely in the month of October.

Think about it. The last time the Ravens had scored a touchdown was against Cincinnati in their last victory, on Sept. 27. That was the same day major-league baseball's regular season ended. By the time the Ravens produced their next six-point play, the New York Yankees had enjoyed their World Series victory parade.

Good old days

Wide receiver Michael Jackson has talked wistfully about the days when he was a touchdown-scoring force. In 1996, he recorded a career-high 14 scores. He played through a serious shoulder injury while scoring only four touchdowns last year, but he is still looking for his first paydirt trip in 1998.

He let a golden opportunity literally slip through his fingers yesterday.

About four minutes into the second half, after Harbaugh had moved the Ravens to the Green Bay 21, Jackson had Newsome beaten on an out move into the corner of the end zone. Jackson turned, leaped, then fell on the sideline as the ball sailed through his hands. Harbaugh screamed in frustration after the play.

"I don't think our timing was the way it was supposed to be. I had my mind more on staying in bounds and I missed the ball," Jackson said. "That's a drop. I want to be in the end zone as bad as anybody. Maybe that's part of it."

Hurting bunch

Yesterday's injury list looked like a repeat from last week's Pittsburgh game. Seven players went down at one point or another. Three of them -- linebacker Tyrus McCloud (knee), defensive tackle Tony Siragusa (ankle) and defensive back Donny Brady (hamstring) -- did not finish the game.

McCloud will have an MRI on his right knee to determine the severity of his strained posterior cruciate ligament.

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