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Words fail Woodson after painful showing Cornerback isn't alone in poor play, but decline in performance is glaring


CHICAGO -- Cornerback Rod Woodson was too frustrated to talk about a performance he'd rather forget.

Has Woodson lost one too many steps? What happened to the 12-year veteran who played throughout the season's first half with such inspiration and ability, the player who won two games by returning interceptions for touchdowns, the player who seemed destined for his eighth Pro Bowl at midseason?

Woodson was merely a shell of that player yesterday at Soldier Field, where he allowed Chicago receivers Bobby Engram and Curtis Conway to run past him for big gains. Oh, and there was the matter of running back James Allen, who, in his first NFL start, blew past Woodson on a long run to set up the Bears' first of three first-half touchdowns.

"I don't even feel like talking right now. I apologize," a dejected Woodson said afterward. "Maybe on Wednesday."

Actually, Woodson was far from alone. The entire Ravens secondary had its share of boneheaded moments during a disastrous first half. In the end, Chicago rolled up 391 total yards, including 163 rushing by Allen. The defense allowed Steve Stenstrom to pass for 202 yards -- nothing spectacular, but he was effective when he had to be.

For example, the Bears converted seven of 14 third-down situations, largely due to Stenstrom.

"We were not in sync at all in that first half [when the Bears scored all of their points]," strong safety Stevon Moore said of the secondary. "It seemed like we were always one guy away from making a play, and we never made it. We never fed off of each other. We just kept breaking down. We didn't support the run on those backside cuts [by Allen].

"Everybody talks about how much talent we have [on defense], but if you don't use it and execute, you're not going to get it done. Obviously, we didn't do that today. I didn't see a lack of effort. Everybody played hard. We just didn't get it done."

The secondary was basically horrendous throughout the second quarter. With the Bears leading 3-0, they had seemingly stalled on their first possession of the quarter. But on a third-and-eight that the Ravens stuffed, Moore was flagged for illegal contact, giving Chicago new life at its 42. That's when Allen broke out with the biggest run of his young career.

Taking advantage of a run blitz by linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, Allen bounded past the Ravens' first line of defense and into the secondary. There, Woodson got caught flat-footed, and free safety Ralph Staten took an improper angle by charging up the middle.

Allen bounced right to the outside, blew by Woodson and down the sideline for a 57-yard gain. Staten recovered in time to drag down Allen at the Ravens' 1.

"I think we got mixed up a little bit up front and didn't get into the gaps right," Staten said. "I had to play the run in the middle first, and I just didn't take the right angle [to measure Allen], and my cornerback [Woodson] went inside. I was glad to make the tackle."

Allen scored on the next play, giving the Bears a 10-0 lead with 11: 37 left in the half.

Allen took off again on Chicago's next possession, running off right guard, then reversing his field quickly. Once again, he caught Staten out of position, before being tackled by Lewis after a 54-yard gain.

On the next play, Conway cut inside sharply and beat Woodson before catching a perfectly thrown pass by Stenstrom for a 16-yard touchdown. That made it 17-0 with 7: 23 left.

Conway burned Woodson again for a 47-yard completion on the next Bears drive. That put the ball at the Ravens' 24. Eight plays later, the Bears put the Ravens in a 24-0 hole at halftime.

Pub Date: 12/21/98

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