Blown pass coverages, poor punting, dropped passes and costly penalties all added up to the Ravens playing their "worst game of the year," coach Ted Marchibroda said after reviewing Sunday's error-marred 21-17 loss to the Chargers in San Diego.
"In all phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- we didn't play as well as we're capable of playing," Marchibroda said. "We still had opportunities to come back to win, but we didn't make the big play throughout the course of the game, and they did.
"We're in position that we should win games that we're supposed to. The big games take care of themselves. Stan Humphries came into the game with a 57 percent rating, but we let him complete 17 of 26 passes for 358 yards. He had three home run balls to Tony Martin. We knew they had that potential."
Beside the mental breakdowns in the secondary that resulted in cornerback Donny Brady's benching, Marchibroda was particularly disturbed by two second-half penalties.
The most costly was rookie Tyrell Peters' illegal block that negated Jermaine Lewis' touchdown on 95-yard kickoff return to end the third quarter. And the Ravens' final bid to take the lead was wiped out when guard Leo Goeas was called for holding on Vinny Testaverde's scramble to the Chargers' 13-yard line.
"Our penalties always seemed to come on crucial plays," Marchibroda said.
After checking the bizarre play in the third quarter on which the Chargers regained possession after fumble recovery by Ravens safety Stevon Moore, Marchibroda said the officials had acted correctly, but he questioned the soundness of the rule.
"I had the rule book out on the flight home," he said. "Any time a player enters the field during the course of a play, it reverts back to the previous play. It's treated as an offside. But I haven't seen that call made in 35 years.
"Our guys thought Moore had possession and made an innocent mistake running on the field. But the rule seems to intimate it was an illegal substitution. I don't think they took into consideration there was a change of a possession. I'd like to see the competition committee change the rule to invoke the penalty after the change of possession."
Too much talk
Marchibroda faulted the officials for their indecision on Terrell Fletcher's third-quarter non-fumble.
"What upset me wasn't the call. I respect the guy's opinion. But you have to make the call decisively. There was no indication it was not a fumble until they went in their huddle."
Morris is back
One of the only positives for the Ravens was the strong running of Bam Morris, returning to action after a month's suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Morris, alternating with Earnest Byner, carried 17 times for 81 yards.
"Bam played better than we anticipated," said Marchibroda. "It was real hot out there [100 degrees]. I was surprised he lasted as long as he did. He ran like he had been here all season. He's a force and impact player. We definitely need him."
Home run hitter
It has taken only a short time for Marchibroda to recognize Jermaine Lewis as his principal game-breaking threat.
Despite suffering a mild concussion when he took a hit over the middle in the first half, and despite sustaining a hamstring pull in the second half, Lewis made a 37-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter in addition to the 95-yard kick return that was nullified by Peters' penalty.
"When Jermaine is in there, we go for the big play whenever we possibly can," Marchibroda said. "That's nothing against [receiver Ryan] Yarborough, but the big play is the difference."
Marchibroda said he is not overly concerned that the former Maryland star, listed at 5 feet 7 and 172 pounds, lacks the physique to survive in the NFL.
"Regardless of where Jermaine plays, he's going to take some hits," Marchibroda said. "But he's a tough kid. He worked real hard in the off-season to strengthen his body."
Lewis' hamstring pull has improved, but he will miss practice tomorrow. Safety Kim Herring, however, will be sidelined with a second-degree sprain of his medial collateral knee ligament.
Stewart causes concern
In preparing for the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers this week, Marchibroda is paying extra attention to versatile quarterback Kordell Stewart.
The former Colorado star enjoyed his best all-around game as a pro Sunday when he completed 16 of 34 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 24 yards and two more scores as the Steelers beat the Oilers, 37-24.
"Stewart is developing into a real good quarterback," Marchibroda said. "His running ability, especially inside the 10-yard line, causes problems. "We also know we have to slow down the Bus [fullback Jerome Bettis] or they'll keep the ball all day."
Marchibroda says the Steelers defense is still disrupting rivals with its zone blitz schemes.
"They run them as good as anyone. You don't know where the extra rusher is coming from. [Nose tackle] Joel Steed and [linebacker] Levon Kirkland are tough to run against, plus you have to be aware of [linebacker] Greg Lloyd on every play, just like San Diego's Junior Seau."
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
Site: Memorial Stadium When: 1 p.m. Sunday
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Steelers by 2 Series with
Ravens: Tied 1-1 Last meeting: Ravens won, 31-17, on Dec. 1, 1996
Pub Date: 9/30/97