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When it comes to 1-run losses, Ravens are touching all bases BENGALS 21, RAVENS 14

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CINCINNATI -- To put this in terms that Baltimore fans can relate to, the Ravens resemble a baseball team that loses a lot of one-run games.

A team on the short end of one-run losses likes to say it's close to winning. But the fact is that bad teams lose one-run games, and good teams win them.

The Ravens are 4-10 because they can't find a way to win close games. They failed to capitalize on the momentum they thought they had picked up when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, and found a way to lose another game to the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-14.

The Ravens have had a second-half lead in nine straight games and have won only two of them.

There was a lot of fodder for second-guessing because of the pass they planned to throw to offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden on their last play.

But it's easy to overlook the fact they couldn't score from the 1 on the two previous plays, and Jeff Blackshear was holding on the final play, so it wouldn't have counted even if they had scored.

A look at the highlights and lowlights of the loss that guaranteed the Ravens will finish in last place in the AFC Central and play a fifth-place schedule next season.

Final play: The Ravens' last play was a microcosm of their frustrating season. They gambled on a pass on fourth-and-goal at the 1. But as soon as the Ravens lined up with split backs, the Bengals read pass all the way and safety Sam Shade made a one-on-one tackle on the secondary receiver, Carwell Gardner, short of the end zone.

Trenches: The offensive line is supposed to be a strength for the Ravens, but on three shots from the 6 -- including two from the 1 -- it couldn't blow the Bengals off the ball so Bam Morris could score. Morris thought he had scored on the second try, but the line should have opened a hole so there was no doubt.

Throwing from the 1: A pass from the 1-yard line is a good play if you fool the opponent. The Bengals did it on second down on their game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter when Jeff Blake faked a handoff, rolled to his right and threw back to tight end Tony McGee, who was wide-open.

Zebras: A Ravens game isn't complete without a few controversial calls. The Ravens thought they were victimized by a holding call on Ogden, a possible interception by Donny Brady ruled no catch and Morris being ruled short of the end zone in the final series. But the officials gave Michael Jackson a sliding 28-yard catch that set up the final series that may have been a trap. They also ruled that Bengals safety Greg Myers touched Jackson when he appeared to roll untouched into the end zone.

Morris file: Morris rushed for 117 yards, an amazing total even though the Ravens had the ball only 24 minutes. It was his second straight 100-yard game.

Not capitalizing on Morris: The Ravens twice went away from Morris when he was starting to get on a roll. In the first quarter, he gained 3, 8 and 4 yards to set up second-and-six at the Cincinnati 27 and Vinny Testaverde threw two incomplete passes. In the third quarter, he ran for 5 and 11 yards to set up a first down at the Ravens' 42. They then called three straight pass plays and punted.

Long drives: The Ravens had a bend-but-don't break defense, holding the Bengals to field goals when they twice put together 15-play drives. But the long drives enabled the Bengals to tire out the Ravens' defense and soften it up for the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Stuffing the run: When a team can stuff first-down runs, it usually puts its opponent in second-and-long and third-and-long situations that it can dominate. On the Bengals' first 11 first-down runs, the Ravens held Cincinnati to 20 yards. Yet the Bengals still ran up 360 yards and controlled the ball for 35: 47 as Blake torched the Ravens' porous secondary for 272 yards.

Good roll: Ravens tight end Brian Kinchen rolled for a first down when he caught a third-down pass on the final play of the first quarter to keep a scoring drive alive, then capped the drive with a 23-yard touchdown catch.

Filling in: Jermaine Lewis, who had caught two passes all season, got a chance to start when Floyd Turner pulled a calf muscle in light drills Saturday. The rookie from Maryland overcame a rocky start to catch three passes for 43 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass when he kept running through the back of the end zone while Testaverde scrambled. He also had a 39-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that set up a touchdown.

Testaverde file: Although Testaverde had one interception, he threw for two touchdowns and put together two fourth-quarter drives that could have forced overtime if Morris had been able to score from the 1. Maybe Testaverde is jinxed.

Just missing: On Blake's first touchdown pass in the second quarter, linebacker Mike Croel blitzed. Untouched, he had a free shot at Blake and should have had the sack, but he whiffed when Blake stepped up to make the throw.

Division woes: The Ravens are 1-6 in the AFC Central, including 0-4 against 7-7 Jacksonville and 6-8 Cincinnati, two teams the Ravens have kept alive in the playoff race. The Ravens have to figure a way to beat their division foes if they're to improve next year.

Loss of poise: Brady threw down Carl Pickens when he was out of bounds after he caught an 8-yard pass in the second quarter. The resulting 15-yard penalty helped start a Bengals touchdown drive. There's no excuse for that kind of penalty.

Booming the ball: Greg Montgomery averaged 44.0 yards on four punts, including a 45-yarder that pinned the Bengals on their 5 in the third quarter. The Bengals then moved the ball 87 yards and had to settle for a field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Catching the ball: Ravens cornerbacks Brady and Antonio Langham had little success covering the Bengals' starting wide receivers, Pickens and Darnay Scott, who combined for 15 catches for 178 yards.

Making the tackles: Eddie Sutter, filling in for the ailing Mike Caldwell, had a solid performance and led the team with seven tackles. Rookie Ray Lewis had six tackles and a sack before being forced out in the fourth quarter with a hip pointer.

Looking ahead: Next week the Ravens take their 0-7 road record to Carolina, which hasn't lost a home game this season. Uh-oh.

Pub Date: 12/09/96

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