EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After John Hall's game-winning field goal went through the uprights at Giants Stadium yesterday, Ray Lewis knelt on the 22-yard-line with his head bowed as the players swirled around him.
Although Lewis is one of the Ravens' building blocks for the future, he blamed himself for not making a key overtime play.
That's the story of the Ravens' first 25 games in Baltimore. They're 4-5 this year and 8-17 overall because they don't have enough players who can make game-winning plays.
It was one more game when they rolled up a lot of impressive statistics but lost. They had a 447-225 edge in yardage, including 159-65 on the ground, and a 23-15 edge in first downs.
Yet they got one touchdown out of four trips to the red zone. On each of their first three possessions, they had a third-and-one play and failed to get a first down.
They also failed on two shots after having a third-and-two in the fourth quarter.
Peter Boulware got lost in coverage and gave up a touchdown pass. Vinny Testaverde threw an interception from his knees. Bam Morris lost a fumble.
Ray Lewis was called for two pass-interference penalties and blamed himself for not stopping Keyshawn Johnson from catching a 21-yard pass in overtime.
The defensive backs' coverage was soft. The special teams gave up yardage by the bushel.
On top of all that, the Ravens are in denial. Coach Ted Marchibroda said the team could win a lot of games playing the way it did yesterday.
Maybe against the Saints.
The Ravens also have a flawed philosophy because they still use the three-wide-receiver set as their base offense. It doesn't fit with a porous defense because they rarely control the clock. Despite their massive yardage edge yesterday, the Ravens had the ball for only 33 minutes, 50 seconds.
They can run from the three-wide receiver formation, but it's not a good offense when it comes to lining up and banging heads on third-and-one plays.
After their first two runs on third-and-one were stuffed, they passed on third-and-one, third-and-two and fourth-and-two and didn't make it. They had a good drive going in the third quarter with a two-tight-end offense, but Testaverde threw the interception from his knees and they went back to three wide receivers.
The Ravens try to fit the players into their philosophy instead of doing what's best with the players they have.
Highlights and lowlights of a loss that probably doomed the Ravens to a losing season:
Turning point: The Jets had a second-and-10 at their 45 in overtime when Johnson juggled a ball and held onto it for a first down at the Ravens' 34. If a defender had been close enough (Lewis blamed himself for not being there) to make a hit and cause an incompletion, the Ravens would have been one play away from forcing the Jets to punt.
Coin toss: The Jets won the opening coin toss and decided to take the wind and give up the ball, as coach Bill Parcells sometimes does in bad weather. Of course, in overtime, the Jets won the toss, took the ball and never gave it back.
Ground game: The Ravens ran the ball 35 times, which is usually enough to win, but they couldn't run twice for first downs on third-and-one. So later they tried to pass on third-and-one, third-and-two and fourth-and-two and couldn't make it. After the last two plays from the Jets' 13 in the fourth quarter, left tackle Jonathan Ogden tossed his helmet in frustration as he came to the sideline. In the third quarter, on the play before Testaverde's interception, the Ravens passed on second-and-five after Morris ran 5 yards on first down.
Testaverde file: This was a typical Testaverde game. He played just well enough for the Ravens to think they can win with him, but still lost. He directed an 80-yard, game-tying drive when Jets assistant head coach Bill Belichick used a prevent defense and rushed only three defenders. But he also fumbled two snaps in the rain (that's eight fumbles in the past four games) and threw the interception from his knees. Sure, Brett Favre did the same thing earlier this season, but he has a Super Bowl ring. Testaverde makes too many mistakes to win consistently.
Bad drops: Jets receiver Jeff Graham dropped two passes to help keep the Ravens in the game. The first came in the first quarter and helped stifle a drive that ended in a missed field-goal attempt, and the second came in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Good drop: Earnest Byner dropped a pass in the flat with nine seconds left in regulation. If he had caught it and been tackled, the clock would have run out.
Poor judgment: Marvin Jones pushed Jermaine Lewis out of bounds after a catch, costing the Jets 15 yards and setting up a 42-yard field goal by Matt Stover. If Jones hadn't made that mistake, the Ravens probably would have had to punt rather than let Stover try a 57-yarder in the rain.
Not-so-special teams: Leon Johnson returned the Ravens' first punt 60 yards to set up the Jets' only touchdown. That was the start of a long day by the Ravens' coverage teams, which gave up 160 yards in return yardage. The Ravens have to tighten up this unit. If these young players can't learn how to run down kicks, the Ravens should be able to find CFL, World League or even Arena League refugees who can.
Zebras: It wasn't a good day for the officials. They called a Ray Mickens interception a complete pass, gave Jermaine Lewis a ** catch he didn't make and didn't call Boulware for a late hit on Glenn Foley. Boulware will have to hope he doesn't get fined by the NFL for that hit, which was a clear violation of the league's one-step rule.
Best route: Ravens receiver Derrick Alexander did a superb job of beating double coverage in the corner of the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with three seconds left.
Looking ahead: The Ravens face their toughest test of the season, a Sunday night ESPN game in Pittsburgh. It will be their only appearance on national television this year, but they couldn't find a tougher setting. The Browns didn't bring their records from Cleveland, so the Ravens are 0-1 there, but the Browns lost the first 16 games they played at Three Rivers Stadium and were 4-23, including a playoff loss, when they moved to Baltimore. The Browns last won there in 1989.
Driving to nowhere
Before scoring a touchdown on their last possession of regulation, the Ravens drove into Jets territory six times yesterday, only to come away with nine points. A breakdown:
Qtr. .. .. .Situation .. .. ..Skinny .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Result
1st .. .. ..3rd-and-1 .. ..Incomplete pass intended .. ..Field goal
.. .. .. ...at Jets' 24 ...for J. Lewis
1st .. .. ..1st-and-goal ..One rush for 1 yard, .. .. ...Field goal
.. .. .. ...at Jets' 5 .. .then 2 incomplete passes
2nd . .. ...3rd-and-2 .. ..Jets stop Morris .. .. .. .. .Field goal
.. .. .. ...at Jets' 4 .. .for 2-yard loss
3rd .. .. ..3rd-and-5 .. ..Testaverde intercepted by ..Interception
.. .. .. ...at Jets' 39 ...Smith, who returns ball
.. .. .. ... ...... ..... .25 yards to Ravens' 44
4th .. .. ..1st-and-10 .. .Morris gains 8 yards before .. ...Fumble
.. .. .. ...at Ravens' 44 .fumbling at Jets' 48; Smith
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...returns ball to Ravens' 14
4th .. .. ..4th-and-2 .. ..Incomplete pass intended .. .. ..Loss of
.. .. .. .. at Jets' 13 ...for Alexander .. .. .. .. .. .possession
Pub Date: 11/03/97