League admits refs tripped Ravens, too Crew blew TD call, Marchibroda is told

November 18, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Jermaine Lewis leads the Ravens by far with eight touchdowns in 1998, and the NFL's director of officiating admitted that Lewis should have been credited with his ninth score at a pivotal moment in Sunday's 14-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said Jerry Seeman, the league's director of officiating, informed him yesterday that Lewis was not tripped by San Diego punter Darren Bennett during a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown with six minutes left in Sunday's game.

The play, which would have given the Ravens a 17-14 lead and possibly a victory, was nullified after a long conference among the officiating crew, led by referee Gerry Austin. They ruled that Bennett's extended leg caused Lewis to stumble and fall near midfield. Lewis immediately regained his feet and continued untouched to complete the scoring play, to no avail.

Upon further review, Seeman said Austin's crew blew the call.

"It was a touchdown, but it wasn't a touchdown," Marchibroda said. "[Seeman] just said he felt, from what they had been able to see of the play, there was no touching, and that it was a touchdown.

"They call what they see, that's what you hear from the officials. I don't think they saw that Jermaine never stopped [after he fell]. You see that Jermaine kept right on going, and he was so exuberant in the end zone, you knew nobody had touched him."

Seeman did not return phone calls yesterday. Lewis could not be reached to comment on the players' day off.

Marchibroda also said Seeman explained, to the coach's satisfaction, why "leverage" penalties were assessed against the Ravens' Jamie Sharper and Michael McCrary during successive field-goal attempts by the Chargers. After McCrary's violation, the Chargers scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that proved to be critical.

The leverage rule forbids a player from jumping up and landing on another player while attempting to block a kick.

"From the reading of the rules, it was leverage by the book. They were right," Marchibroda said. "But I've never seen it called on a guy [McCrary] rushing from the outside. It usually happens when guys rush up the middle."

The Lewis announcement marks the second time a costly call against the Ravens was ruled incorrect too late this year.

Several days after a 16-6 loss in Pittsburgh on Oct. 18, the league office told the Ravens that officials should have called Steelers wide receiver Charles Johnson for illegal contact that preceded a pivotal touchdown pass from quarterback Kordell Stewart. Johnson threw Ravens cornerback Duane Starks to the ground before breaking open on the play.

"I think maybe [the admissions] sort of helps officiating in the league in the long run, that it makes more officials alert to things like this," Marchibroda said. "I'm not absolving our guys of the blame [for Sunday's loss]."

Marchibroda, whose team has slumped to 3-7 and is virtually out of contention for a playoff berth, had strongly hinted that a roster change or two was on the way after Sunday's penalty-marred defeat. Backup defensive backs Ralph Staten, John Williams and Donny Brady were among the possible candidates for release.

But the Ravens decided not to make any changes yesterday.

"We're hoping to improve our football team," Marchibroda said. "We're looking [for replacements], but we can't come up with anything better. That doesn't mean that it won't happen. I just hope [the players] know we're looking."

NOTES: The Ravens' offense has managed just 60 points in the past six games, but it could not ask for a more accommodating opponent than the Cincinnati Bengals this week. The Bengals have the lowest-ranked defense in the NFL. Lewis is averaging 57.6 yards on his eight touchdowns in 1998. Cornerback Rod Woodson, who leads the team with five interceptions, has seven career interceptions against the Bengals, the most against any team he has faced in his 12-year career.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Site: Cinergy Field, Cincinnati

When: Sunday, 4: 15 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Bengals by 1 1/2

Pub Date: 11/18/98

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