CHICAGO -- Ideally, the Ravens wanted to be above .500 or at least at that level at this point in the season.
But with two games remaining, the Ravens (5-9) face the Chicago Bears (3-11) today at Soldier Field with only their pride and draft position at stake.
If all had gone according to plan, the Ravens would be in playoff contention, with the Bears and the Detroit Lions left on the schedule.
Now, it's a matter of which team might quit first.
"The one thing I'm confident of is that this team won't quit on the season," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "The players have continued to work hard and they fight each game down to the last play.
"Even the couple of games when we fell behind in the fourth quarter, our players kept getting after it. We have a lot of players who never give up the fight."
In fact, the Ravens have several players who love to fight, period, including their own teammates if necessary.
"We're signed up to play the 16 games, not 13, 14 or just 15 -- all of them," said Ravens right guard Jeff Blackshear. "It doesn't matter whether we're out of the playoffs or not. This is our job. This is what we have to do, and I don't see anybody here backing off. If somebody backed off, we'd have some other guys, including me, who wouldn't let them slow down. We'd kick their butts."
Overall, the Ravens appear to have more talent than the Bears, but the Ravens are far from being at full strength. Game-time decisions will be made on starting offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (ankle sprain) and center Wally Williams (sprained neck). Marchibroda said starting right tackle Orlando Brown (ankle sprain) will be replaced by Spencer Folau.
None of the three players practiced last week. If the two starters can't play, Jeff Mitchell will start at center, and James Atkins at left tackle.
Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the patchwork group didn't give up a sack.
"I've never been in a situation where we had so many offensive linemen go down at the same time," said Marchibroda. "There were times last week at practice when James Atkins was the only starter playing, and he was at a new position [left guard to left tackle].
"But give the guys who lined up against the Vikings credit. We moved the ball pretty well and protected the quarterback. We didn't have a sack, but Jim [Harbaugh] did have to scramble a little more."
The Ravens have just as much concern about the defensive line. Even though defensive tackle James Jones (knee) practiced with the team Friday, he is not fully recovered, and the team has put fellow starting tackle Tony Siragusa (sprained neck) on the inactive list.
Top tackle reserve Larry Webster practiced Friday, but still has a tender Achilles'.
"Usually at this time, we're putting together the active, inactive and injured lists," said Marchibroda. "I think this time our inactive list may be as long as the active. We may have to activate some players who haven't gotten much time. Some of the rookie defensive linemen like Lional Dalton or possibly Larry Fitzpatrick may have to step up."
The Ravens will need a big game from their defensive line to get pressure on Bears quarterback Steve Stenstrom. Chicago has lost six consecutive games since quarterback Erik Kramer went out of the lineup with shoulder and knee injuries.
The Bears looked like they might end the streak last week when they advanced to the Green Bay 25-yard line with 1: 05 left in the game, but after Stenstrom threw incomplete to Curtis Conway in the end zone on first down, he was sacked three times to end the game as Chicago lost, 26-20.
That game caught the eyes of Marchibroda and defensive end Michael McCrary.
They noticed the Bears hadn't quit and still had some offensive weapons in running back Edgar Bennett, tight end Alonzo Mayes and Conway.
"They are a National Football League team, and therefore they should get respect," said McCrary.
Added Marchibroda: "They're a little like us, losing a lot of close games and playing head to head against some of the better teams in the league. I'm sure this is going to be a hard-fought game."
Ravens at Bears
Site: Soldier Field, Chicago
Time: 1:01 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK(1300 AM), WLIF (101.9) FM
Pub Date: 12/20/98