Ravens get crash course in rock bottom

November 16, 1998|By John Eisenberg

SAN DIEGO -- Upon further review, the Ravens didn't hit "rock bottom" against the Jaguars two weeks ago, as coach Ted Marchibroda suggested.

They hit it yesterday in a ridiculous loss to the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

At least they lost to a playoff team with a Pro Bowl quarterback when the Jaguars hammered them. Yesterday, they lost to a last-place team and an overmatched backup quarterback who'd never won an NFL game before.

They lost to a team that committed 16 penalties, averaged 2.7 yards per offensive snap and played the last 43 minutes with a backup halfback carrying the load.

Pathetic. That's the only word to describe the Ravens' inability to find a way to win in those favorable conditions.

Pitiful. That's the only word to describe the Ravens' worst performance of 1998: 161 yards of offense and 106 yards of penalties, 12 completions in 34 pass attempts, six sacks, two interceptions, seven dropped passes, eight first downs, an invisible running game and enough stupid penalties to last a season.

Blame it on the players, the head coach, the assistant coaches, the owner, the front office, everybody. The Ravens played hard, but without discipline or imagination. Given a terrific chance to win their second straight game and start building real momentum against an easy November schedule, they blew it. As usual.

How many days until pitchers and catchers report?

Yes, the weekly brutal call from the referees went against them this time, as the zebras took away a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter when they ruled that the Chargers' Darren Bennett had tripped Jermaine Lewis on a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown. Lewis appeared to stumble on his own, without contact from Bennett, before rising and completing the touchdown run.

But the many Ravens who complained bitterly about the call after the game were missing the point.

There are no excuses when you lose to a quarterback named Craig Whelihan, who had lost all seven of his previous pro starts and threw so many sinkerballs into the dirt yesterday that the Orioles should consider signing him and putting him in their rotation.

There are no excuses when you convert only two of 15 third-down chances and never snap the ball within 25 yards of your opponent's goal line.

There are no excuses when you basically hand over the deciding touchdown by committing penalties on a third down and two fourth downs on the same San Diego drive in the second half, with each penalty resulting in an automatic first down.

Without those penalties, the Chargers had no shot at driving the length of the field for the score.

Call it a new low for the team that always finds a way to lose.

Call it rock bottom.

It was such a woeful display that Marchibroda, perhaps sensing that he's going down, refused to go down alone this time.

"We have some guys playing this game for themselves," he said. "They are not playing for the team. I'm assuming the penalties called against our guys happened, it's been happening all year. Certain guys have been told about it over and over again and they keep making the same mistakes."

Bully for Ted. But he can't say that and not do something about it now. He should have made a statement with personnel changes after the Jacksonville game. He has to make changes now -- today -- after criticizing the players. Enough already. Break up the Ravens.

But hey, Marchibroda had a bad day, too. You can't point fingers when you're responsible for blowing a superb chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.

"We saw something on film we thought we could take advantage of," Marchibroda said.

The result was the worst call of the year -- a first-and-10 halfback pass from Priest Holmes that fooled no one and resulted in an interception.

A halfback pass works only if the running game is established, drawing the defensive backs to the line to stop the feigned run. The Ravens' running game was nowhere near established when Holmes pulled up on a sweep at the Chargers' 39-yard line with 14 minutes left.

What happened? The Chargers' defensive backs didn't even flinch at the trickery, maintaining their usual coverages. Holmes aimed his pass right at the Chargers' Greg Jackson. Lame, lame, lame.

"The play was covered like a blanket," quarterback Jim Harbaugh said.

Put it back in the book, Ted. As much as the offense needed life and inspiration, the timing on that play was all wrong.

And the offense's performance over the rest of the afternoon?

"Not very good," Harbaugh said.

To say the least.

"The [officiating] calls were bad," Ravens nose tackle Tony Siragusa said. "But the calls didn't beat us today. The Ravens beat the Ravens."

True, a win would have given them only a 4-6 record and no more than a prayer of making the playoffs. But a win would have given them respect. A win would have shown they're better than the worst teams at least.

But they can't even boast of that now. They're 3-7 for 1998 and 13-28-1 since moving to Baltimore. Even worse, they're 0-1 against Craig Whelihan, who missed 27 of his 42 passes yesterday.


That's the sound of rock bottom. The Ravens are there today.

Pub Date: 11/16/98

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