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Luck goes south for McCrary Leverage, roughing calls stuff of nightmares after last week's dream effort; CHARGERS 14, RAVENS, 13


SAN DIEGO -- A week ago, Ravens right defensive end Michael McCrary was the toast of the locker room. His four sacks had punctuated a victory for the win-starved Ravens. His performance yielded an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award.

Yesterday, McCrary lived life on the other side of football's line.

First of all, San Diego veteran left offensive tackle John Jackson -- with double-teaming help from such teammates as tight end Freddie Jones and H-back Wendell Davis -- denied McCrary his favorite meal. McCrary tasted no sacks, while his teammate and friendly rival, linebacker Peter Boulware, broke out of a slump with 1.5 sacks.

But McCrary hurt the Ravens in other, more glaring and controversial ways. The Ravens committed a handful of fourth-quarter penalties, but none as memorable as McCrary's.

"No coach or player can make me feel worse than I made myself feel," said a dejected McCrary, who stared at the floor while facing his locker on a stool. "I played my game, and I made some mistakes that cost us dearly. This is probably my lowest point and the team's lowest point.

"I think it was a terrible game for me. Anytime your defense plays as hard as we played, the last thing I want to do is let my teammates down. I don't like to let anybody down."

Early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens had seemingly held off San Diego with an inspired, goal-line stand. But on kicker John Carney's 24-yard field goal, McCrary was called for a leverage penalty. Officials said McCrary stepped onto a Chargers player before leaping to try and block Carney's attempt. The Chargers took the automatic first down and scored a go-ahead touchdown on the next play.

With nearly nine minutes left in the game, McCrary cost the Ravens precious field position when he stumbled into quarterback Craig Whelihan's knees from behind, dropping Whelihan after he had thrown an incomplete pass on third-and-25 from the Chargers' 5.

Roughing-the-passer penalty. First-and-10 for the Chargers at the San Diego 20. Three more valuable minutes passed before the Ravens would get the ball back.

The leverage call was confusing to say the least, bizarre to say the most. Referee Gerry Austin ruled that McCrary "put his knee on an opponent to get higher to attempt to block a field goal. That call isn't often made because it doesn't occur often."

McCrary insisted no infraction occurred in the first place.

"I have no idea why they called that. I was just trying to jump over a guy to block the kick," he said. "I guess I have to learn the rules. I didn't even know there was a call like that."

On the roughing penalty, McCrary fought through a double-team block in the end zone, stumbled and came in from behind Whelihan at a low angle. He took two steps after Whelihan had let go of the ball.

"I got off a double-team, came after the quarterback and didn't see the ball thrown," he said. "I guess I have to look up and be more responsible."

"I don't care how tough you are, nobody wants to be called for plays like that," said defensive tackle James Jones.

McCrary, who had a relatively quiet day with three solo tackles, was not alone in making crunch-time mistakes. Over the final six minutes, following McCrary's moments, three other Ravens stuck out in the worst way.

With a little more than five minutes to play, left guard Ben Cavil committed his second false start of the game, putting the Ravens in a first-and-15 hole at the San Diego 30. The Ravens eventually settled for a 42-yard field goal by Matt Stover, cutting the Chargers' lead to 14-13 with 3: 49 left.

Then, with 1: 54 left, after the Ravens had forced a San Diego punt, Donny Brady committed an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that pushed the Ravens back to their 19 to begin their final possession. Two plays later, Eric Green's offensive-interference infraction buried the Ravens back on their 12 with 1: 35 left.

Pub Date: 11/16/98


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