By Mike Preston
November 17, 1997
The only things possibly left to play for now are pride, draft position and the head coach's job. The Ravens' playoff hopes were left hanging in the wind with Philadelphia kicker Chris Boniol's waffling, 40-yard field-goal attempt at the end of overtime yesterday. The kick sailed wide right, resulting in a 10-10 tie with the Eagles before 63,546 at Memorial Stadium.
It was the first NFL tie since the Browns and Kansas City Chiefs tied, 10-10, on Nov. 19, 1989, in Cleveland.
The outcome virtually ended any playoff hopes for the Ravens (4-6-1) with five games remaining, but the team did show some signs of life after getting routed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 37-0, the week before.
The bottom line, though, is that the Ravens are 8-18-1 under coach Ted Marchibroda since moving to Baltimore and have won only one game in their past seven. Marchibroda has one year left on his contract, but owner Art Modell has said he won't comment on his status until after the season.
"It's just so frustrating, things just don't click when we need them to," said Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary, who had a game-high three sacks. "I would have been happy if we'd won. I was considering this the biggest game of the year because it would have kept us alive [for the playoffs]."
"We didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had," said Marchibroda, who was without starting running back Bam Morris (toe) and slot receiver Jermaine Lewis (ankle). "In a game like this, that close, every chance you have, you have to take advantage and you have to make the most of it and we failed to do that.
"I don't think the tie helped us at all. Our goal now will be to finish the season at 9-6-1."
The Ravens seemed to have a lot of advantages going into the game, starting with the fact that Philadelphia (4-6-1) had a short week and was coming off a tough, 24-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Monday night.
The Ravens' offensive line had a nice weight advantage over Philadelphia's defensive line, the Eagles' patched-up offensive line had given up 39 sacks, their special teams were some of the worst in the league, they had not won on the road, their best cornerback was out for the season and they were starting a third-string quarterback named Bobby Hoying.
And all the Ravens could do was manage a tie.
Despite a heroic effort by the defense, which collected a club-record nine sacks and held Philadelphia to 63 yards rushing, and an offense that got 154 yards rushing from rookie Jay Graham, all the Ravens could do was tie.
A tie? Why?
The Ravens' offense couldn't convert on short-yardage situations in the extra period, and kicker Matt Stover missed a 53-yard, wind-aided field-goal attempt with 2: 21 left in overtime.
The defense surrendered one long drive at the end of regulation, the team's big-money players didn't deliver in crunch time, and quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw another extremely costly interception, this one near the end of the first half.
But let's start with the overtime period. The Ravens had three series, including the first one that started at their own 45 and and the last one at the Ravens' 46.
On their first possession, faced with fourth-and-six at the Eagles' 36, Marchibroda elected to go for the first down instead of punting. But as Testaverde took a three-step drop, he pumped once for slot receiver Ryan Yarborough, who was supposed to run a slant-in. Instead, Yarborough ran an out route and Testaverde was sacked by linebacker William Thomas with 10: 21 remaining.
"I think we missed the blitz call," said Testaverde, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 140 yards. "Our receivers didn't pick up the sight adjustment. I thought I could duck under and come up to throw, but it didn't happen."
On the play before, Graham tried to run off left tackle on third-and-two, but defensive tackle Edward Jasper penetrated through left guard Ben Cavil and tackled Graham for a 4-yard loss to take the Ravens out of field-goal range. The Ravens were 3-for-15 in third-down efficiency.
"All we needed was to gain yardage and we'd be in excellent field-goal range," Marchibroda said. "In fact, we would have had three more downs to gain yardage. You have to make the most of those opportunities."
The Ravens failed on another short-yardage situation later in the overtime.
On third-and-one at the Eagles' 35, with about 2: 30 left, Thomas slipped inside of tight end Eric Green to stop running back Earnest Byner. Stover attempted the 53-yard field goal, but it was wide right by about two inches.
"I hit it really good, but it was lower than I wanted it to go," Stover said. "It was a great opportunity to shine, but it didn't happen. I have to make those kicks in game-winning situations whether it's 52 or 53 yards."
But Stover, currently the game's most consistent kicker, is the least of the Ravens' problems.
Marchibroda has to find a way to score some points, and it seems as though the Ravens are running out of ideas after scoring just 13, 20, 16 and zero points in the previous four games.
The Ravens have gone from a passing team to a running team, with Graham giving them big numbers yesterday.
But the big-money players, like Testaverde and receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander, no longer are making big contributions in crunch time.
Jackson had two receptions for 37 yards, including one for the Ravens' lone touchdown on a 29-yard catch in the first quarter. Alexander had four receptions for 39 yards, but neither had one in the overtime period.
The Ravens may have gone conservative on offense because Testaverde had fumbled eight times and thrown eight interceptions in the previous six games. He had two interceptions yesterday as the Ravens stayed mostly with short- and mid-range passes.
"We had momentum," Jackson said of his touchdown reception, which put the Ravens ahead 7-0 with 4: 01 left in the first quarter. "But from that point on, we were just playing who could get across the 50, and that doesn't win football games. Derrick and myself were not a big enough part of things in overtime and we thought we could have been."
Testaverde's biggest mistake came with 29 seconds left in the first half. His pass for Green was intercepted by Thomas at the Eagles' 7, stopping a Ravens drive that started at their own 31.
"I just didn't see him," Testaverde said of Thomas. "It was a costly turnover."
The Ravens can't point fingers at the defense. They stymied Hoying with a number of blitzes and games from the inside of the defensive line and bottled up running backs Ricky Watters (36 yards) and Charlie Garner (21).
Their only lapse came late in the game when the Eagles went from their own 40 to the Ravens' 2 in four plays before Garner scored up the middle to tie the game at 10-10 with 1: 25 left in regulation.
The four previous plays were passes. On the biggest one, Hoying escaped pressure and passed to fullback Kevin Turner down the right sideline for a 25-yard gain to the Ravens' 27.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis said the Ravens should have stayed in their regular defense instead of using five and six defensive backs.
"We were trying not to lose instead of playing to win," said Lewis, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles. "I think you should just keep shooting your guns and roll with it. We have to learn to put people away."
But defensive linemen McCrary and Tony Siragusa disagreed.
"We didn't do anything different, they just made the plays and we didn't," McCrary said. "We didn't get it done when it counted. If you make the plays 90 percent of the time, but don't when you have to, then you failed."
Said Siragusa: "We used five and six defensive backs all day. Give the kid [Hoying] some credit, he made some plays under a lot of pressure.
"I don't know how to react to all of this. I was depressed because we didn't get the pressure during their drive, but we did in overtime. We didn't win, we didn't lose. It's a tie and I've never been in a tie all my life."
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