CHICAGO -- Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson had not produced a performance this memorable all year. But, in what seemed like a symbol of personal and team futility in 1998, his day was best captured by the touchdown that could have been.
The snapshot occurred during the Ravens' opening drive of the second half, as they tried to gain some momentum in the face of Chicago's unanswered, 24-point first half. The Ravens had driven 43 yards to the Bears' 8, facing a first-and-goal. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh rolled to his right and saw Jackson break open in the right corner of the end zone.
Harbaugh's pass was perfect. Jackson squeezed the ball and raised his arms in triumph. Finally, he could celebrate his first touchdown of the year.
Check that. There, lying along the sideline, was a penalty flag. Harbaugh, who had taken several steps past the line of scrimmage, had thrown an illegal forward pass. The celebration stopped. The drive ended with a Matt Stover field goal, which accounted for all of the Ravens' scoring.
And Jackson was left with one game to avoid going without a touchdown for the first time in his eight-year career.
"Maybe I don't make enough money, because I can't even buy one," Jackson said. "All I know is, I was finally in the end zone. I came into the game thinking I was going to get two or three [scores] today."
All Jackson could do was plead his case to an official.
"I said, 'Man, haven't you seen my stats? I don't have one yet this year. You can't throw that flag!' " Jackson said.
To his credit, Jackson stepped up in place of the injured Jermaine Lewis (ankle) and Floyd Turner (hamstring) to lead the team with seven catches for 72 yards.
No time for healing
The Ravens were dangerously thin on the defensive line at the start of the game. Tony Siragusa was out with a neck injury, backup tackle Larry Webster has been bothered by an Achilles' tendon injury, and starting tackle James Jones has been battling a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee and a pulled hamstring.
Jones and Webster were not feeling too well after yesterday's debacle at Soldier Field. Both aggravated their injuries. Webster remained in the game, but Jones left early in the third quarter.
Jones, whose knee was heavily wrapped in the post-game locker room, said he felt better than he did a week ago. He said he expects to play in the finale against Detroit.
"I'll know more [about his health] by Tuesday," Jones said, "but if I'm able to work and if I'm not putting myself in jeopardy, I'm going to go out there next week and give it a shot. This game means too much to me."
Rookie Dalton plays
The health problems on the defensive line allowed the Ravens to get their first live look at rookie tackle Lional Dalton, who made the team as a free agent out of Eastern Michigan.
Dalton, who was overmatched early, rebounded to play a decent game. He finished with two solo tackles, and his penetration helped the Ravens stuff the Bears on a fourth-and-one in the second half.
"I was nervous, and the first play was faster than I expected. They caught me blinking," Dalton said. "After the coach got me some more reps, I felt like I started to play better."
Harbaugh knows there will be a new coach next season, which means a lot of changes, and he could be one of the victims.
"The ax swings. You hope you're below that line. I don't know head coach, quarterback. Maybe I'm a little too high-profile at this point," he said.
"I got a lot of respect and love for Ted [Marchibroda]. I hate to see him on the hot seat like he is. It's going to affect a lot of people."
Of his return to Soldier Field, where he played with the Bears from 1987 to '93, Harbaugh said: "It was a special feeling coming in. It brought back a lot of memories.
"I was extremely fired up. I wanted to come out and perform well and win like you want to every week. It didn't happen today."
Boulware points finger
Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware blamed "breakdowns" for James Allen's long runs.
"People were out of place," said Boulware, who also complained about inconsistency. "You've got to be in position. You've got to come out ready. You've got to come out with enthusiasm. If you don't, that's what is going happen."
According to a Ravens official, Carolina coach Dom Capers is expected to become a candidate to replace Marchibroda if Capers is fired by the Panthers. A spokesman for CBS analyst Terry Donahue said he would have no comment about whether the Ravens or any other NFL team had contacted Donahue about a coaching job until after those teams had fired their coaches. The Ravens suffered three more injuries, though none appeared serious: Eric Green (bruised knee), Ben Cavil (ankle sprain) and Turner. Outside linebacker Jamie Sharper spent a noticeable amount of time on the sideline, giving way to veteran Jerry Olsavsky (six tackles).
The Ravens produced a club-record low for rushing yards (22) in yesterday's loss. In six games this season, all losses, the Ravens have been held below 60 yards rushing:
Opp. .. .. .. Att. .. .. Yds. .. .. Avg. .. .. Result
Ten. .. .. ... 18 .. .. . 36 .. ... 2.0 .. .. L, 12-8
at G.B. .. ... 17 .. .. . 56 .. ... 3.3 .. .. L, 28-10
at S.D. .. ... 15 .. .. . 40 .. ... 2.7 .. .. L, 14-13
at Ten. .. ... 14 .. .. . 58 .. ... 4.1 .. .. L, 16-14
Min. .. .. ... 16 .. .. . 55 .. ... 3.4 .. .. L, 38-28
at Chi. .. ... 16 .. .. . 22 .. ... 1.4 .. .. L, 24-3
Pub Date: 12/21/98