After defeat, time to show eye of tiger

September 24, 2000|By Mike Preston

IF THE RAVENS want to re-establish themselves in the NFL, then they need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals this afternoon at PSINet Stadium.

And if they really want to send a message, then they need to smack them all over the field.

Any team can have an embarrassing loss like the Ravens' 19-6 defeat to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday at Pro Player Stadium, but playoff-caliber teams rebound with strong performances and victories.

Playoff teams take their frustrations out on the next opponent.

Playoff teams beat up on teams like the 0-2 Bengals.

Ravens offensive tackle Harry Swayne knows the deal. He was with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in 1997 and 1998. The Broncos had losses and lull periods on offense and defense, but the winning streaks outnumbered the bad times.

"We need to come out and put that loss behind us," Swayne said. "Last week was an example of us not coming out, not being ready to play, not looking past all the conditions. We played like it. We now need to play like we can play, and last week was not a typical Ravens game.

"We have to show teams again what we're really about. Otherwise, you become a typical team in the league. One week you're up, one week you're down. You don't know what you're going to get. Even during championship runs, you have lulls. You just have a lot fewer than the other teams."

The Ravens (2-1) should be able to handle the Bengals easily. Forget about that old saying of, "On any given Sunday in the NFL, one team ... "

Baloney.

The Bengals have scored one touchdown this season. They are averaging only 275.5 yards of offense. They are playing with a second-year quarterback who has started only eight games and are starting two rookie wide receivers. They play for a coach, Bruce Coslet, whose teams never win early, but rally just enough late in the season every year to save his job.

The Bengals lost to Cleveland, 24-7, at the opening of their new stadium two weeks ago, for crying out loud!!!

Meanwhile, the Ravens were built to make a playoff run this season. While the Washington Redskins are Public Enemy No. 1 around the league for spending money to sign players this off-season, the Ravens have to be in the Top 10, too.

With the infusion of money from new minority owner Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens signed quarterback Tony Banks, defensive linemen Rob Burnett and Tony Siragusa and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden to contract extensions. They brought in high-profile free agents such as tight ends Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates, defensive tackle Sam Adams and quarterback Trent Dilfer.

And they signed two first-round draft picks - running back Jamal Lewis and wide receiver Travis Taylor - to multi-year contracts.

With that kind of payroll, the Ravens shouldn't have too many Miami games. With this kind of talent, this team should rebound strong.

"They don't fear losing," coach Brian Billick said of his Ravens. "But there is an anxiety. You can't wait to get back on the field after a loss. You really wish you could play the next game the next day to get that taste out of your mouth. So they're anxious to get out there, show what they're about and put their best foot forward."

The key word for the Ravens is consistency. In five years, they have yet to prove they can win a game after an emotional victory, such as the one two weeks ago over Jacksonville, 39-36. That game was followed by the dud in Miami.

Each week is like a roller-coaster ride with Banks and the Billick offense. Banks is so streaky; not just from game to game, but from half to half. One half the Ravens can't score, and the next they put up 32 points.

It's crazy.

Billick can be just as bizarre (or is it cute?) with his play-calling. Last Sunday at the Mud Bowl in Miami, the Ravens were at the Dolphins' 1-yard line late in the third quarter, trailing 13-0. On first down, Banks was sacked for an 8-yard loss on an attempted rollout, eventually forcing the team to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Matt Stover.

Excuse me, but didn't the Ravens pay the 5-foot-11, 231-pound Lewis all of that money to get the tough yards inside the red zone and on the goal line? And didn't the club give Ogden a $15 million signing bonus a couple of weeks ago because he is regarded as one of the top five offensive linemen in the game?

Sometimes, Compu Coach needs to drop his computer, stat book and mouse, and play smash-mouth football. The Ravens' clock management from midway in the fourth quarter was poor, too. As slow as the team was going in and out of the huddle, it looked like it had a two-touchdown lead.

The defense has its troubles, too. The unit gave up a zillion yards to Jacksonville, and then allowed the Dolphins to push it around for 118 yards rushing, as Miami offensive coordinator Chan Gailey taught Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis a lesson about keeping a defense off balance.

But despite all of those things, the Ravens can erase those bad memories today with a win over the Bengals. Then it's on to Cleveland before a rematch and gut check down in Jacksonville against receiver Jimmy Smith and the Jaguars.

"After a loss, you always have to re-establish yourself," said Ravens linebacker Cornell Brown. "That's important. We have to get our defense back to where we want it to be, back to last season when we were flying around and having fun. We've got to get better."

Defensive end Rob Burnett said: "I can't express enough disappointment after last week, and there has to be a remedy. The only way it can be remedied is to win this week.

"We don't have to do anything but win, regardless of how we pull it off. If we have got to have my mother come down there and bite somebody in the leg, it doesn't matter to me. We've got to get back into that winning frame of mind."

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