Ravens' timing on timeout was perfect

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LANDOVER -- In the lore of pro football, there are memorable moments known as The Catch, The Drive and The Immaculate Reception.

The Ravens and Redskins added to that yesterday with The Timeout.

Yes, the first Ravens-Redskins game -- nobody's clamoring for a second one after watching this dreary game -- may have been decided by a timeout.

At first glance, the Ravens beat the Redskins, 20-17, on Bam Morris' 176-yard rushing day.

But it might have all been for naught except for The Timeout.

The Ravens, who have made an art form of blowing fourth-quarter leads, appeared to be at it again when Vinny Testaverde fumbled for the third time and the Redskins recovered at the Ravens' 25 with 9: 25 left.

Five plays later, the Redskins, trailing 20-14, faced fourth-and-two at the Ravens' 7 with 6: 46 left. They were lining up to go for it when the Ravens called timeout to set their defense.

It was a moment of genius.

After the timeout was called, Redskins coach Norv Turner had second thoughts. He decided to play the percentages and go for the field goal to cut the deficit to 20-17. He said he thought the Redskins would get the ball back a couple of times.

But the way quarterback Gus Frerotte was playing, they couldn't count on him to put together a long drive and he didn't. The Redskins will never know if they could have gotten a first down and gone in for a go-ahead touchdown.

This game showed that the Redskins are no better than the Ravens in the fourth year of the Turner regime. Both are 4-4 this season and the Redskins are 6-10 and the Ravens 5-11 in their past 16 games. The Redskins had delusions of grandeur when they were 4-2 after beating the Dallas Cowboys, but they've shown they're probably going nowhere.

This was an ugly game on an ugly, rainy, bone-chilling day with thousands of no-shows at the Redskins new, no-frills stadium.

Of course, coach Ted Marchibroda, who can rave about hamburger as if it were steak, was beaming after the game. He said these were the real Ravens and it was their best game of the year.

Highlights and lowlights of a game that gave the Ravens Maryland bragging rights, even if there wasn't much to brag about:

Turning points: There were two key plays in the fourth quarter. The first was Morris' fumble recovery at the Washington 13 after Testaverde lost the ball. It enabled the Ravens to get the game-winning field goal by Matt Stover. The second was the timeout when Turner lost his nerve and decided not to gamble for the victory.

Ground game: Finally, the Ravens discovered the running game. They pounded the Redskins' papier-mache defensive line 44 times for 199 yards. Morris showed he can be a big-time back as he often gained 4 or 5 yards after the first hit. The Redskins didn't seem to know how to defend against runs from the Ravens' three-wide-receiver alignment and had problems when they ran after splitting out Eric Green as a fourth receiver.

The drive: In the first half, the Ravens put together a 20-play, 78-yard drive that took 11: 22 -- or almost a quarter -- off the clock. Morris ran 10 times in the drive, including four straight plays at one point. They need to put together more drives like that.

Testaverde file: The Ravens showed the key to winning is to limit Testaverde to handing off. Even though he threw only 21 times, he still fumbled three times. He said Morris backed into him on one, but he had audibled to pass plays on fumbles in the fourth quarter on first-and-goal from the Redskins' 6 and second-and-three from the Ravens' 27. He should have stuck with the run on those plays even though the Redskins were jamming the line of scrimmage. But the bottom line is, he got the win.

Pinning them deep: Greg Montgomery didn't get a chance to punt until the final minute of the second quarter, but he had a good touch with a 39-yarder downed on the Washington 2 by James Roe. He also pinned the Redskins back on their 14 and 11 on their final two possessions.

Good roll: Michael Jackson went to the ground to haul in a pass on a third-and-eight play at the Ravens' 45 in the third quarter. He then rolled over before he was touched and that was enough to get a first down on a 9-yard gain. The Ravens went on to get a field goal.

Taking points off the board: One of the bromides in the coaching handbook is that it's dangerous to take points off the board. Turner did it when Tony Siragusa was offside on Scott Blanton's 49-yard field goal in the third quarter. Turner gave up the field goal to take the first down and it worked when the Redskins went in to score a touchdown.

Playing it safe: After Testaverde dropped the ball on first-and-goal at the Redskins' 6, the Ravens decided not to risk a throw by Testaverde. They ran the ball twice and then took the field goal, although Stover had to make it twice when they didn't get the first one off before the clock expired. The way Testaverde was playing, it was probably a wise decision not to risk a throw.

Poor coverage: The Ravens' special teams had all kinds of problems stopping Brian Mitchell, who returned four kickoffs for 140 yards, including a 61-yarder. When Stover tried to squib one, it went out of bounds and the Redskins still got it on their 40. Mitchell kept giving the Redskins' good field position.

Too long: Leading 14-7 with 5: 40 left in the second quarter, the Ravens let Stover try a 48-yard field goal on fourth-and-11 at the Washington 31. That's a long kick on a rainy, chilly day. The Ravens would have been better off going for it or punting and trying to pin the Redskins deep. Stover later made field-goal attempts from 34 and 28 yards, but he didn't come close on the 48-yarder.

Man in the middle: Ray Lewis was all over the field with 13 tackles, two assists, an interception, sack and a defensed pass.

Looking ahead: The Ravens now play tough, back-to-back road games at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets and at Pittsburgh. They have to at least get a split in those two games to stay alive in the race now that they're back to .500.

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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