The Ravens made enough mistakes to spoil any good individual performance in yesterday's 45-19 debacle against Jacksonville, but at least they seem to have solved their quarterback problems.
Jim Harbaugh joked after a practice last week about having amnesia. That's how badly Harbaugh wants to forget the unlucky events that made the first half of his 1998 season a nightmare. Yesterday, Harbaugh started over again, and the results proved the old guy still has something left in his gas tank.
Harbaugh, sporting a frown and a uniform full of grass stains in the post-game locker room, was not interested in hearing about his strong return as the team's No. 1 quarterback. But, in the face of his team's utter ineptitude, the 12-year veteran showed a remarkable lack of rust, considering he had not started a game since the third week of the year.
While starting and finishing a contest for the first time in 1998, Harbaugh gave the Ravens a glimpse of what they were expecting when they traded for him last February. His throws were consistent and on target. His feet were light and evasive in the pocket. He ran with his customary gusto.
And at the end of the day, Harbaugh put up 300 yards of offense, completing 27 of 34 throws for 243 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another 57 yards on 10 carries. Only an interception marred an otherwise superb effort.
"It wasn't good enough, I know that," Harbaugh said. "We had a real good game plan. I thought there were a lot of things [available]. But we made every mistake possible. We let our coaches down, our fans down and ourselves down. I've never been in a game like this. Hopefully, I'll never be in one like this again."
Actually, Harbaugh would be well-served to duplicate the poise and leadership he showed through trying circumstances. But even the player known as Captain Comeback, who finally overcame a finger injury on his throwing hand and tendinitis in his throwing elbow to start yesterday, could not dig the Ravens out of the 42-7 trap they set for themselves during a mistake-fouled first half.
"Make a play, mess up a play," fullback Roosevelt Potts said, summing up the blooper-fest. Potts was responsible for one of three fumbles that killed Ravens drives.
"Jim has been excited all week," Potts added. "He said he was back and ready to play. Then, he went out there and just moved the ball. I don't think he made one bad check today."
If Harbaugh could have thrown the ball to himself, maybe the first half would have turned out differently.
Things started out on an encouraging note. After the Jaguars had taken a 7-0 lead, Harbaugh quickly answered by engineering a 10-play, 73-yard drive. He finished the drive with a vintage Harbaugh sequence that began on the Jacksonville 6. Harbaugh dropped back, scrambled left to avoid pressure, then slid along the line of scrimmage patiently, before hitting Jermaine Lewis in the back of the end zone for the score, tying the game at 7 with 6: 16 left in the quarter.
The next four possessions turned the contest into a dark comedy: three lost fumbles and a blocked punt for four touchdowns.
Through it all, Harbaugh never stopped exhorting his offense, never stopped making plays. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Floyd Turner late in the first half closed the gaping wound somewhat. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Johnson -- through double coverage -- with 4: 30 left confirmed that Harbaugh is back.
"Jimmy played well," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "Jimmy's a gamer. He always gives you everything he has, and that's all you can ask for."
Pub Date: 11/02/98