Ravens reminders not etched in stone

November 09, 1998|By John Eisenberg

Ten commandments to live by in the wake of the Ravens' 13-10 victory over the Raiders yesterday:

No. 1: Thou shalt not complain about NFL officials this week.

The Ravens have had their share of bad calls go against them, but a brutal mistake by the zebras really helped them yesterday.

Raiders quarterback Donald Hollas clearly put the ball across the goal line on a play in the second quarter, but the referees ruled he hadn't and the Raiders wound up with three points instead of six -- quite a difference in a game decided by three points.

It's hard to say what the line judge was doing on the play. Maybe watching those canned highlights on the SmartVision. But with the blown call, the Raiders' 14 penalties and the early ejection of the Raiders' starting center, the Ravens had strong support from the refs. So be nice.

(And you're dreaming if you think maverick Raiders owner Al Davis will get a public apology from the NFL for the blown call, as the Colts did after blown calls went against them.)

No. 2: Thou shalt not entertain any thoughts or discussions of the Ravens' playoff chances.

Yes, beating the Raiders, who had won five games in a row, was impressive. And yes, the Ravens' schedule gets easier now, with only two of their last seven games against teams with winning records.

But the Ravens don't have a winning record themselves. They're not even close, in fact, at 3-6. So they're hardly a lock to beat losing opponents, especially on the road, where they'll spend three of their next four Sundays.

The Ravens often get big-headed when they win and start thinking they're better than they really are, which is one reason they're 3-9 in games after wins since coming to Baltimore. The coaches should emphasize that humbling stat this week.

Yes, they played hard yesterday and beat a probable playoff team, and they deserved to bask in that success. But let's keep things in perspective. It was one win after four straight losses. One win for a franchise that had never even won in November.

Let's see them win three more in a row and get to .500 before we bring up the P word.

No. 3: Thou shalt give Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda the week off from eternal damnation.

He wasn't any smarter yesterday than he was against Jacksonville last Sunday. It's amazing what can happen when his players don't lose five turnovers, commit nine penalties and generally implode on contact.

If you blamed Ted for that, you'd better give him credit for yesterday. His team responded well to getting humiliated at home the week before. That's coaching.

And besides, if he didn't get fired after Jacksonville, he's not going to get fired until after the season, so let's just talk about something else -- like, say, the Ravens' playoff chances. (Just kidding.)

No. 4: Thou shalt remember the blueprint for success the Ravens followed yesterday.

They didn't fall so far behind that they had to abandon the running game. They kept pitching to Priest Holmes. Their possessions tended to last longer than three passes and a punt. And they won despite passing for only 87 yards.

The defense and the running game. The running game and the defense.

That's how the Ravens can win.

No. 5: Thou shalt not underestimate the importance of Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary.

His four sacks yesterday gave him 12.5 for the season. He's the Ravens' MVP so far, and he's going to the Pro Bowl if he keeps up his hustle and sack production. Give the man a hand. He's playing great football.

No. 6: Thou shalt not underestimate the motivational power of getting beaten, bloodied, embarrassed and having your toes stepped on by a big meanie.

"After [losing so badly to Jacksonville] last week, we basically just said we couldn't let that continue to happen," Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said.

No. 7: Thou shalt not give too much credit to last week's players-only team meeting that some players saw as significant.

Team meetings only help when you win, if you get the drift. They tend not to matter when you lose.

Good blocking from the offensive line and tough play from the defense mattered a lot more than any meeting.

No. 8: Thou shalt not think all of the Ravens' ills are cured.

They ventured into the red zone twice yesterday, never even attempted a pass into the end zone and settled for two field goals.

They're still the NFL's worst offensive team inside their opponents' 20-yard-line.

No. 9: Thou shalt not dismiss Holmes and suggest the Ravens need to draft a franchise running back.

Hold on. Holmes rushed for 99 yards yesterday and broke several big runs. He'll gain 1,000 for the season if he averages 80 yards over the last seven games, a realistic proposition if the line blocks at all.

No, he doesn't make plays when his line fails to block. Few backs do. But he's quick, he blocks well, he's still learning and he's going to make some big plays. He has potential. Give him a chance.

No. 10: Thou shalt not covet future NFL MVP candidate and possible inspirational "Movie of the Week" subject Vinny Testaverde, no matter how many games in a row he wins or how high his quarterback rating soars.

OK, so I'm in denial. Aren't you, too?

Sack master

Michael McCrary had four sacks yesterday, breaking a single-game Ravens record he had held jointly with Bennie Thompson and bringing his season total to 12.5, which breaks the club record of 11.5 set last year by Peter Boulware.

McCrary game-by-game

Gm. 1: 1 ... Gm. 4: 2 ... ..Gm. 7: 0

Gm. 2: 1.5 ..Gm. 5: 2 ......Gm. 8: 1

Gm. 3: 0 ....Gm. 6: 1 ......Gm. 9: 4

NFL sack leaders

Kevin Greene, Panthers ......... 13.0

Michael McCrary, Ravens .........12.5

Chris Doleman, 49ers ............12.0

Reggie White, Packers ...........11.0

Hugh Douglas, Eagles ........... 11.0

Pub Date: 11/09/98

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