SAN DIEGO -- Eugene Daniel tried to downplay his contribution, although the Ravens' newest addition -- and their most experienced cornerback -- made too many plays to hide.
Daniel, acquired less than two weeks ago after spending 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, made an immediate impact after replacing the struggling Donny Brady at right cornerback.
Besides lending some stability to a position that has been a powder keg -- witness Brady biting on a play-action fake, then allowing Tony Martin to run by him and catch a 72-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter -- all Daniel did was pick off one Stan Humphries pass and deflect three others, two of which he also could have intercepted.
"I just thank the good Lord for putting me in a position to make a couple of plays," Daniel said. "But I've got to come up with some of those balls. I'd rather take an interception back for a touchdown than just knock the pass down."
Daniel, who did not play in last week's victory over Tennessee, said he found out shortly before yesterday's 21-17 loss that he would probably see some action. He just wasn't sure how much.
Because of the heat that wore down the Ravens and the ineffective play of Brady in the first half, the Ravens went with Daniel for virtually the entire second half in Brady's place.
"We felt we needed to give Donny some rest, and we wanted to give Eugene a chance to play," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "Eugene did a good job. He got out there and obviously was productive."
When asked if Daniel would start in place of Brady against Pittsburgh next week, Lewis backed off.
"We got Eugene to be our fourth corner, and we'll see what happens from there. I don't know [if Daniel will start]. We'll see."
Yarborough gets chance
Receiver Ryan Yarborough was much more involved than expected yesterday. He became the Ravens' lone backup when the team decided to deactivate James Roe, choosing to promote rookie defensive tackle Leland Taylor to the 46-man roster to provide depth with the loss of Tony Siragusa (ankle injury).
Yarborough became much more important after Jermaine Lewis went down in the first half with a mild concussion, thanks to a wallop to the head by strong safety Rodney Harrison after Lewis failed to make a leaping grab down the middle.
Yarborough ended up leading the Ravens with five catches for 55 yards.
But Yarborough smeared his productivity in crunch time. On the last possession, with the Ravens facing third-and-20 at the Chargers' 34, Yarborough allowed a Vinny Testaverde pass to go through his hands inside the San Diego 15. A completion would have given the Ravens a first down.
"Vinny threw it right where it needed to be. I just put my hands up late and [the ball] went right through them," Yarborough said. "No excuses. It was a good ball. I just didn't make the play."
Besides his two fourth-quarter interceptions, Testaverde would like to have back the several incomplete, downfield passes that occurred after he missed Bam Morris wide-open in the flat.
"There were at least two times where I could've gotten him the ball and gotten good yardage out of it," Testaverde said.
Said Morris: "I'm the decoy [on passing plays], but I am a safety valve. Maybe Vinny saw something I didn't see, and maybe I couldn't have made big yards, but I was wide-open several times."
Lewis takes his hits
Just think if Jermaine Lewis could stay healthy. Lewis missed significant time in the first half with a mild concussion, then left the game in the fourth quarter after pulling a hamstring.
But the Ravens' second-year receiver was around long enough to catch a 37-yard touchdown pass, return three kickoffs for 77 yards and bring back two punts for 27 yards. He also returned a second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown that was called back by an illegal block.
Lewis doesn't even remember the blow he absorbed by Harrison, who knocked him out of action for much of the first half. Lewis spent the half sitting on the bench with a towel draped over his head.
"I remember seeing the ball, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I got up in a daze and kind of staggered," said Lewis, who already has missed two games. "My vision was messed up. I couldn't really focus right away.
"I keep getting hurt. My knee, now my hamstring, a concussion. I just want to get my body right. But this is part of the NFL. I've got to adjust."
Goeas says no to holding
Guard Leo Goeas is eager to see the films of the play when he was called for holding on a critical play in the fourth quarter.
The call wiped out Testaverde's scramble to the Chargers' 11 and forced the Ravens into a second-and-20 at the Ravens' 34.
But Goeas insisted he didn't hold on the play. He said the officials either called the wrong number or simply blew the call.
"I didn't know I got called for a penalty until I heard my number called," he said. "That's how bad it was. He said I pulled him down. There's no way. I can't tell you what happened. Things happen too fast out there. But I know I didn't hold anybody."
Marchibroda favors change
Coach Ted Marchibroda repeated after the game that the Ravens are in favor of bringing back instant replay. They were one of the 20 teams that voted for it last March when it fell three votes shy.
After a game in which he was swinging in the air while arguing with the officials, Marchibroda said he also thinks the rule should be changed that wiped out a Ravens fumble recovery for illegal substitution.
"I think there's one rule in there I don't understand. I've never heard of it before," he said. "It's the first time I've ever seen it invoked. When we picked the fumble up and our guys went on the field, it's like an offsides and the ball goes back. That's the only time I know of that when there's change of possession, the ball goes back to the original down. I strongly recommend that that thing be changed."
The sunny side
Marchibroda was upbeat after the loss.
"I think the strength of our ballclub is the character of the football team. They'll bounce back," he said.
Matt Stover continued his torrid season by kicking three field goals in three attempts. He had made 14 of 15 attempts this year. Punter Greg Montgomery had his worst outing of the year, averaging just 34.2 yards on five punts. And Montgomery's average would have been lower if Eric Metcalf had not misjudged a fourth-quarter, 55-yarder that sailed over his head and went unreturned. Kim Herring sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and did not finish the game. Defensive end Rob Burnett (foot) and Antonio Langham (elbow) also suffered injuries. Earnest Byner gained 30 yards to move into 17th place on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 8,203. Testaverde threw a touchdown pass for the ninth straight game.
Dave Distel and Vito Stellino contributed to this article.
Trailing 21-17, the Ravens got a 34-yard punt return from Derrick Alexander and took possession at the Chargers' 36 with 2: 33 left in the fourth quarter. Instead of embarking on a game-winning drive, the Ravens proceeded to move backward after their first play:
Down .. .... Yd. line ..Play
1st-and-10 ..SD 36 .... Testaverde 12 pass to Jackson.
1st-and-10 ..SD 24 .... Testaverde incomplete pass to Alexander.
2nd-and-10 ..SD 24 .... Testaverde 13 run nullified by holding
.. ........ . ..... ....penalty.
2nd-and-20 ..SD 34 .... Testaverde incomplete pass to Alexander.
3rd-and-20 ..SD 34 .... Testaverde incomplete pass to
...... ..... .....Yarborough.
4th-and-20 ..SD 34 ... .Illegal-procedure penalty.
4th-and-25 ..SD 39 ... .Testaverde pass intercepted at 14-yard
......... ........ .... line.
Pub Date: 9/29/97