DENVER -- Your offense has produced 93 points the last three weeks. Your quarterback is in one of the hottest stretches of his career. But your defense is so depleted by injuries, you've still lost three straight games.
So, what will the Ravens do?
Would you believe nothing?
"There isn't anything on the street better than what we have here," owner Art Modell said after yesterday's 45-34 loss to Denver. "Anybody who is out there not working, there's a reason they're out there.
"There's no help in the world, except to get our people back. We played without four defensive starters. We did it with magic to stay as close as we did despite the 500 yards."
Actually, Art, it was 548 yards, a Broncos team record, but who's counting? Perhaps it's true that the Ravens can't find anyone better on defense. But how could they find anyone worse?
Bubba Smith could help. Ted Hendricks could help. Mike Curtis, Lenny Lyles, Ordell Braase -- all those old Colts greats would look good in Ravens purple right now.
But they're not coming.
No one is coming.
The Ravens apparently are going to stick with their new 3-4 defense, a defense that got burned for six touchdowns yesterday, a defense that yielded eight plays of 20 or more yards.
They're going to risk turning their 2-5 record into something much worse. And, perhaps even more troubling, they're going to risk dividing their players.
The offense did more than its share yesterday, rallying from 14-0 and 21-3 deficits, surviving the losses of three starting linemen, taking a 34-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Testaverde actually was up to the challenge, throwing a career-high four touchdown passes -- three in the Ravens' astonishing third-quarter comeback.
But still, the Broncos were too much.
Running back Terrell Davis ran for a team-record 194 yards. Ed McCaffrey caught a career-high three touchdown passes. Tight end Shannon Sharpe made nine receptions for 161 yards.
"It breaks your heart when you go out and have success, come up short and lose," Testaverde said.
The offense keeps getting its heart broken.
Will its spirit follow?
Coach Ted Marchibroda wouldn't say if the Ravens would return to the 4-3 -- "let St. Louis think about it," he said, as if the next opponent should be worried -- but defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis stated the obvious.
The Ravens can't go back to the 4-3.
They don't have enough healthy defensive linemen.
"We might give up 100 points," Lewis said.
Of course, the Ravens could have stayed with the 4-3, if only they had signed a defensive lineman after losing Rob Burnett and Dan Footman to season-ending injuries last week in Indianapolis.
The system was working -- the Ravens allowed the Colts only 13 second-half points without Burnett and Footman. But the team didn't even work out any free-agent defensive linemen until midweek.
L By then, it was too late to make a difference for yesterday.
"We've just got to keep playing," defensive tackle Tim Goad said. "We were told they weren't going to bring anybody in. There's nothing we can do about it. We've just got to suck it up and go."
A fine message to send your players.
Most were split on whether it was wise to change defenses in midseason. "It's basically the same defense; we're just using a linebacker instead of a defensive lineman," Goad said.
Either way, the Ravens are allowing nearly 29 points per game, most in the AFC. Modell and Co. should just admit it already -- the team is short of defensive talent.
Oh, the Ravens produced their first turnover in five games yesterday -- a gift interception by Antonio Langham. But the last three weeks, the defense has allowed 46, 26 and 45 points.
Think about it -- Ray Lewis, the team's leading tackler, is a) a rookie and b) undersized at middle linebacker. What does that say about the rest of the defensive unit? The future of this franchise?
This is a wake-up call. The Ravens spent the off-season losing free agents and over-rating their talent. Marchibroda believed they were closer to 11-5 than 5-11. Obviously, that is not the case.
The shame of it is, the players again produced a remarkably gallant effort yesterday, especially considering that more than $10 million worth of talent was sidelined because of injuries.
The Ravens had no business competing with the 6-1 Broncos, no business scoring 34 points against the top-ranked defense in the AFC, no business leading in the fourth quarter at the most difficult road site in the NFL.
Yet, they did all that.
Either the front office finds defensive help or concedes it's time for a major overhaul. Modell said the available free agents aren't "worth a dime." Well, Art, the players you have might not be worth a nickel.
Do something about it.
The Ravens have been on the losing end of the two highest-scoring games in the NFL this season and have given up the second-most points per game in the league:
Most points, both teams
Date .. .. .Score .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Pts.
10/6 .. ..Patriots 46, Ravens 38 .. .. .. ..84
10/20 .. .Broncos 45, Ravens 34 .. .. .. ...79
9/22 .. ..Chargers 40, Raiders 34 .. .. .. .74
9/15 .. ..Dolphins 36, Jets 27 .. .. .. .. .63
10/20 .. .Eagles 35, Dolphins 28 .. .. .. ..63
Most points allowed per game
Team .. .. ..Games .. .. ..Pts. .. .. ..Avg.
Falcons .. .. .7 .. .. .. .207 .. .. . .29.6
Ravens .. .. ..7 .. .. .. .201 .. .. ...28.7
Seahawks .. ...7 .. .. .. .187 .. .. ...26.7
Jets .. .. .. .8 .. .. .. .212 .. .. ...26.5
Rams .. .. .. .7 .. .. .. .185 .. .. ...26.4
Pub Date: 10/21/96