Special team lapses help keep Giants in game Containment lost on TD; rush forces punter to pass


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This was the first real preseason game for the Ravens.

The team's opener last Saturday at Memorial Stadium wasn't a typical preseason game because the Baltimore fans were so emotional about the return of the NFL to the city.

At Giants Stadium yesterday, there was no emotion. The atmosphere was about as lackluster as it usually is for NFL preseason games.

The shows barely edged the no-shows, 39,799 to 36,716, as almost half of the New York Giants' 76,515 season-ticket holders didn't bother to show up or even give their tickets away. On a beautiful August Saturday afternoon, a preseason football game wasn't high on their priority list.

The fans were content to boo quarterback Tommy Maddox, who flunked the starting test he was given by coach Dan Reeves.

Reeves didn't play his starting quarterback, Dave Brown, and it seemed to set the tone on a day when the Giants didn't appear too interested in the proceedings.

The teams came up with a lot of sloppy play, which is often the trademark of second preseason games.

The Ravens dominated, but made enough mistakes to keep it closer than it should have been in a 37-27 victory.

The Ravens had a 16-1 edge in first downs in the first half, yet blew a 12-0 lead and trailed 13-12 until Vinny Testaverde threw a touchdown pass to Michael Jackson with 12 seconds left in the half.

The main problem was the play of the special teams. Scott O'Brien, the special teams coach, figures to have some long meetings with the players this week.

They made an elementary mistake in the second period when they lost outside containment on Amani Toomer when he started up the middle on a kickoff return. He then cut to his left and ran 94 yards for a touchdown.

On the ensuing series, the Giants put on a big rush and Greg Montgomery couldn't get the punt off. He wound up throwing a desperation pass that was incomplete and the Giants took over on the Ravens' 23. Two plays later, the Giants had a 13-12 lead.

The Ravens came back to win easily, but the special team lapses took some of the edge off the victory despite Ray Ethridge's 84-yard punt return in the second half.

But coach Ted Marchibroda didn't appear to be upset.

"Those things are going to happen. We're going to have a kick returned against us occasionally," Marchibroda said.

Overall, the defense put up another good performance, although it didn't hurt that the Giants didn't play their starting quarterback.

The major area of concern is at right cornerback, where the Ravens haven't found a replacement for Don Griffin, who was let go in a salary cap move. Both Issac Booth and rookie DeRon Jenkins gave up touchdown passes.

On offense, the Ravens showed signs of getting the running game going, and Testaverde had good numbers for the second straight week -- 16-for-25 for 179 yards and a touchdown.

But there was one red flag. Testaverde committed turnovers on consecutive series in the second period, on a fumble and an interception when he underthrew Calvin Williams.

That's the type of inconsistent play that has hurt Testaverde throughout his career. He has been noted for making good plays one minute and misfiring the next.

Marchibroda, however, doesn't seem worried about Testaverde and said he came back after the miscues to direct a touchdown drive right before halftime.

"On the interception, he went to the right guy and the receiver [Williams] could have helped him out a little bit. And he underthrew it a little bit. But he went to the right guy. That's the important thing at this point.

"And he knows he shouldn't have fumbled. Overall, I'm happy with his performance," Marchibroda said.

Testaverde said he was satisfied with the way he played.

On the fumble when it looked as if he were trying to toss the ball as he went down, Testaverde said: "I was trying to scramble around in the pocket. I lost my grip on the ball. It kind of squirted out. I have to keep both hands on the ball in the pocket. I can't let that happen, especially at that point in the game. It was a crucial point. It could have turned the game around. Thank heavens, we came back."

Overall, the performance got a good rating from the person whose opinion counts the most. Owner Art Modell, a Brooklyn native, embraced Marchibroda after the game and congratulated him.

"Way to go home for you," Marchibroda replied with a big smile.

Pub Date: 8/11/96

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