Ravens make good effort to keep coach - of Bears BEARS 24, RAVENS 3

From The Sidelines

December 21, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- The Ravens played like a team trying to save a coach's job yesterday.

The strange thing is that the coach was on the opposing sideline.

Unlike Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, whose fate has been sealed, Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt is still trying to save his job and -- with the Ravens' help -- his team did its best to persuade owner Mike McCaskey to give him another year.

Playing with a quarterback (Steve Stenstrom) who wasn't expected to even make the team this year, and without their top two running backs (Curtis Enis and Edgar Bennett), the Bears, who came in with a 3-11 record and had lost six straight, jumped to a 24-0 halftime lead and coasted to a 24-3 victory.

The Bears were helped by the fact that the Ravens just mailed it in. In the Christmas spirit, a lot of them should donate their game checks to charity. They certainly didn't earn them.

It was so bad that guard Jeff Blackshear said he wasn't even surprised by the rout.

He said one of the defensive coaches even told the troops Saturday night that the team wasn't ready to play.

"It was true. Guys weren't ready to play. You had guys lollygagging in the locker room and you could just feel it," Blackshear said. "I was looking for the score to be worse than it was. A lot of guys could have just stayed home. They could have just brought some guys who really wanted to play. That's my opinion. The score shows it."

Safety Stevon Moore said: "I don't think we showed up. I don't think we came to win. I guess we took these guys too lightly. It seemed like out on the field, we didn't have that spark."

Linebacker Peter Boulware said: "We came out very flat, no energy."

It's unfortunate that Marchibroda had to endure this. His calling card has been that his teams always play hard. A lot of these players simply quit on him.

The only good thing to come out of it is that the loss improved the Ravens' draft position for the next coach as he attempts to rebuild the team.

But it's difficult to know whether simply changing coaches is the answer because the rest of the organization probably will remain intact. This is an organization in which nobody appears to be in charge and nobody -- except the coach -- seems to be accountable, an organization that believed adding Jim Harbaugh, Rod Woodson, Roosevelt Potts and Errict Rhett would improve a 6-9-1 team.

Dating back to its Cleveland days, this organization is 209-226-4 with just four playoff wins since the 1970 merger and has had one winning season in the 1990s.

It might take a Bill Parcells, a Jimmy Johnson or a Mike Shanahan to overcome that legacy, but they're not available. The odds are against the Ravens finding a coach of that caliber.

Lowlights of a loss in which the Ravens simply embarrassed themselves: Turning point: It was all downhill once the Ravens' ,, plane landed in Chicago.

Drops: The Ravens couldn't hold onto the ball. It started with Michael Jackson, who let a pass bounce off him that was turned into an interception. He later dropped another pass. Priest Holmes and Potts couldn't hold onto passes when they took big hits.

Homecoming: This was Harbaugh's first game at Soldier Field since he was dumped after the 1993 season and it turned into a nightmare. It didn't help that his receivers kept dropping the ball and he had to run for his life behind a makeshift line when the

Bears kept blitzing. But he also lost a touchdown pass when he threw the ball 3 or 4 yards past the line of scrimmage. A veteran quarterback can't make a mistake like that.

Ill-timed penalty: The Bears would have had to punt after Stenstrom threw an incomplete pass on a third-and-eight play at the Chicago 37 early in the second quarter. But the Ravens were called for defensive holding to give the Bears a first down. That penalty cost them a touchdown after James Allen ran 57 yards on the next play to set up his 1-yard TD run. The referee said "27" committed the penalty, but Moore said it wasn't him. The culprit may have been "25" -- DeRon Jenkins. Regardless, the penalty was a killer.

Aging: Rod Woodson seems to be showing his age (33) as the season wears on. He was beaten by Curtis Conway on a 16-yard touchdown pass and a 47-yard pass late in the second quarter that set up another score.

Blitz: The Bears got only two sacks, but they blitzed constantly against the Ravens' makeshift offensive line and kept Harbaugh on the run. Harbaugh said, "We knew they'd blitz. Our plan was to try to pick it up and our plan didn't hold up well from the beginning. There was nothing to go to. There were no tools to combat it with. It wasn't in the game plan." The Bears were worried Harbaugh might roll out, but he said, "The rollout hasn't been a big part of our plan."

When Harbaugh was asked if he wished it was, he smiled and said, "Yah. Especially when you're standing back there with eight guys coming, you wish it was." It has been a puzzle all season why the Ravens haven't tried to utilize Harbaugh's mobility.

Pass rush: In the 26-20 loss to Green Bay last week, Stenstrom was sacked on the final three plays. The Ravens didn't sack him once, but the Ravens didn't have many chances to unleash the pass rush once the Bears got the lead and could run the ball. Michael McCrary, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time last week, said, "How many times did they pass the ball?" Just 14 times in each half.

Looking ahead: The Ravens wind up this sorry season Sunday against Detroit. The one attraction is that Barry Sanders will make what is likely to be the only appearance of his career in Baltimore. The big question is whether the Ravens will go in the tank at home the way they did on the road yesterday.

Pub Date: 12/21/98

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