Healthy Ravens tackle Jags Harbaugh & Co. seek end to 3-game skid

November 01, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

There can be no more excuses after today.

Jim Harbaugh is back at quarterback. Eric Green returns at tight end. Wally Williams is again the starting center, and Ben Cavil is at left guard. And to help inspire his team, coach Ted Marchibroda has pulled out an old motivator: The old "home team against the media" trick.

On the field, the Ravens (2-5) will try to climb back into the AFC playoff race when they play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2) at Ravens stadium. The Ravens have lost their last three games, while Jacksonville has lost two in a row.

"We have dug ourselves a deep hole," Marchibroda said. "And, more than ever, we have to stick together and hang tough. We have a chance to come back, but we have to start winning games. We need a run.

"I don't think we need to shake things up. We do need to regroup and band together. I think the morale is good. The players are fighting hard in games and working hard during the week. We need a win against a good team."

Jacksonville had been picked by some experts to play in the Super Bowl this season, but the Jaguars struggled last Sunday in a 37-24 loss to Denver, the defending champions.

And the Ravens have had their own problems, especially on offense, scoring just one touchdown in the last 14 quarters.

They are looking for a spark and have named Harbaugh the starter for today's game after Eric Zeier played poorly in the last ,, three. The Ravens traded for Harbaugh on Feb. 14, but he hyperextended the ring finger on his right throwing hand in the opener against Pittsburgh and then was hampered by tendinitis in right elbow as he failed to complete a full game in the first four games.

The Ravens are hoping Harbaugh, aka Captain Comeback, can rescue this season and possibly Marchibroda's job. Marchibroda in the third and final year of his contract.

Harbaugh spent extra time this week going over film and working with the offensive coaches.

"I know it's here, we can win now," said Harbaugh, who has completed only 22 of 52 passes for 302 yards and one touchdown. "We're close. I believe that. We need to execute just a little better. It's that close.

"Everybody wants to win on Sunday. We need to have that willingness every day of the week and we'll all see progress. We'll come out of this."

When asked if Harbaugh had another miracle left in his 34-year-old body to rescue this team, Marchibroda said: "We'll find out. We need one at this time."

Green returns after not playing the past two games because of a ruptured air sac in his lung. The Ravens have missed his presence inside the opposition's 20-yard line. More important, Green is the best blocking tight end in pro football. It's like having a third tackle.

After a contract dispute that caused him to miss five weeks of training camp, Williams has been shifted from left guard to center, a position he has coveted since entering the league six years ago. Cavil will start at Williams' old position. With the exception of Priest Holmes beating out Errict Rhett for the starting running back position, this is the lineup Marchibroda expected to start for most of the season.

It never happened.

"He is our go-to guy, the leader of our offense," Marchibroda said of Green. "This is the first time all year our football team is healthy, that we're hitting on all eight cylinders."

The Ravens know the importance of this game, which is why Marchibroda barred the media from the locker room most of this past week. He said his team needed to concentrate and focus. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Marchibroda the Coach has turned into Ted the Shrink.

"A win puts some sunshine on us," said defensive end Michael McCrary. "Right now, it's like we're playing under this big, black cloud. A win gives us some light, some hope. It's the most important game this season."

If the Ravens are to have any chance, they have to find a way to slow Jacksonville's pass offense, which is ranked No. 15 in the league. Jaguars receivers Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith have had big games against the Ravens, who are 0-5 in the series against Jacksonville. The key is getting to quarterback Mark Brunell, who makes pre-snap adjustments as well as any in the league.

Brunell has completed 131 of 207 passes for 1,539 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jacksonville has given up 11 sacks, seven last week against Denver.

The Ravens' blitz-happy defense will have to be aggressive yet calculating.

"It's about formations and certain situations, you have to be careful when you go after them," Marchibroda said. "But we've had a good week of practice, the concentration and focus have been there."

Was it because the media wasn't?

"I would have to say so," said Marchibroda jokingly.

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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