Game plan only as good as execution

From The Sidelines

November 02, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Ted Marchibroda left something to remember him by yesterday.

Answering all the critics who complained about unimaginative game plans, the Ravens' coach put in some new wrinkles against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I feel we had a real good game plan going in," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh. "The coaches put us in a position to have success."

The Ravens then went on to prove that game plans don't matter if the players don't execute them and make mistakes by the ton.

That was the lesson of the 45-19 loss to the Jaguars. The Ravens keep beating themselves.

"Jacksonville played sound and we let the Ravens beat us again," wide receiver Michael Jackson said. "That's who beat us, the Ravens."

The sorry showing left the Ravens staggering at 2-6 and means that Marchibroda will eventually be fired -- maybe sooner rather than later.

He's now 12-27-1 -- the league's worst record since the team moved to Baltimore in 1996 -- and coaches don't survive records like that, although it's still pointless to fire Marchibroda during the season.

What the game showed is that the Ravens simply don't have the talent to match up with Jacksonville, a team that has never lost to the Ravens. The Ravens thought they finally had their best team on the field and yet played their worst game.

The next coach is going to have to be more realistic in evaluating the talent on the team. Marchibroda's main fault is that he's such an optimist, he thought that adding Harbaugh, Rod Woodson, Roosevelt Potts and Errict Rhett to a 6-9-1 team would make it a playoff contender.

It turned out they weren't enough to make much difference. Harbaugh, who did well yesterday, wasn't healthy for the first seven games, Woodson and Potts made mistakes that cost the Ravens touchdowns, and Rhett has spent much of the year on the bench. They're still the Same Old Ravens. So much for game plans, play-calling and trying to focus by closing practice to the media.

Marchibroda did his best to exploit the Jaguars' defense. He spread running back Priest Holmes out to one side to match him up against a linebacker, put two receivers on the other side and left Potts as a single back.

The alignment worked perfectly on the Ravens' second possession, a 10-play, 73-yard drive that featured a 33-yard run by Potts, and tied the game 7-7.

Two plays from scrimmage later, though, it was virtually over. Woodson gave up a 78-yard pass and then Eric Green fumbled to set up another touchdown. A Potts fumble set up a touchdown, a blocked punt went for a touchdown and another Green fumble was returned 83 yards for a touchdown and the Jaguars had 42 points with 2: 59 still left in the first half.

The only consolation for the Ravens is that it can't get any worse than this. Or can it?

Lowlights and a few highlights of the embarrassing loss to the Jaguars:

Turning point: On their first series, the Jaguars ran the ball on their first three first downs. On the first play of their second series, after the Ravens tied the game 7-7, the Jaguars split Fred Taylor out wide to the right and he streaked past Woodson and scored on a 78-yard catch. It didn't help that the pass rushers gave Mark Brunell too much time to throw. The Ravens then started to self-destruct and the rout was on.

Home-field edge? The new stadium is a cash cow for the Ravens, but it's not helping the team on the field. They're now 1-3 in the new stadium -- all in division games. Last year, they were 3-4-1 at Memorial Stadium. They're also making no progress in catching the Jaguars or Steelers. They were swept by both of them for the second straight year and are 1-11 against those two teams since the move.

The Green factor: Green was supposed to make a difference on the offense when he returned to the lineup. He did on their first-quarter touchdown drive when he made a big block on Potts' long run. But he then fumbled twice and the Jaguars turned both into touchdowns. It was somewhat questionable whether the Jaguars got the first one before it went out of bounds, but it would be tacky to complain about the officials considering the way the Ravens played. Give Green credit for taking all the blame after the game.

Misleading stat: The Ravens actually had a 239-230 edge in first-half yardage while falling behind 42-13, which is why the only stat that counts is on the scoreboard.

Controlling the ball: After the Ravens took over on their 15 with 9: 33 left in the second quarter, trailing 28-7, the Jaguars didn't take another offensive snap until there were just 32 seconds left in the first half. But the Jaguars scored two touchdowns -- on a blocked punt and a fumble return -- in that span without lining up for an offensive play.

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