Upon further review, several Ravens players said the team did not quit in its 24-3 loss to the Chicago Bears two days ago, and were optimistic the team would finish the season with a strong effort against one of the league's best running backs in Barry Sanders and the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ravens stadium.
They also said the lackluster effort was not a result of coach Ted Marchibroda's job status. Marchibroda is 15-31-1 in the three years the team has been in Baltimore and it's inevitable that he will be fired, with a strong possibility the announcement will come Monday morning.
Owner Art Modell expected his team (5-10) to at least be in playoff contention, but the Ravens were 2-6 at midseason. The team has had several embarrassing losses, including a 45-19 loss to Jacksonville in which the Ravens gave up 42 first-half points, but Marchibroda called the first half against the Bears the worst Ravens performance he has seen.
The Ravens allowed the woeful Bears (4-11) three straight touchdowns during a 12-minute period in the second quarter, and the game didn't look any better on film yesterday.
"I don't see it as a coaches problem," said linebacker Peter Boulware. "I see it as a me problem where some guys just need to look in the mirror because everything starts with self. Every game in this league you've got to give it all you got. I don't look at the coaches for that, I look at me.
"I didn't see a lot of guys quitting out there, but guys making mistakes, missing tackles, guys who weren't focused," he said. "We are much better than that team that played the Bears."
Added defensive end Michael McCrary: "I would like to think that [Marchibroda's status] had nothing to do with it because regardless, you have to have some type of personal pride. We didn't play with any fire. Anytime you go out on a football field, you have to get excited and be glad you have a chance to knock someone's head off."
What made the loss so disappointing was that most of the defense, with the exception of tackles James Jones and Larry Webster (who virtually played on one leg because of a strained Achilles' tendon), played poorly -- including several players who have carried the Ravens this season.
Pro Bowl-bound middle linebacker Ray Lewis missed a number of reads, especially on the quarterback. Both rookie cornerback Duane Starks and veteran Rod Woodson had a tough time getting off blocks and Woodson got caught looking in the backfield when he gave up 47-yard pass to Curtis Conway that set up a score.
McCrary, Boulware and defensive end Rob Burnett also had problems stuffing the run.
Need any more evidence?
"Yesterday was the first time I thought our team didn't play with the kind of heart and passion that I've seen this team play with, even in losing efforts in the past," said running backs coach Al Lavan. "That's a sick feeling. I'm going beyond missed assignments.
"It just didn't look like we were playing with the type of intensity and the attention to detail that we've had in the past. When that happens, you know you're in trouble. That's when the light comes on and you say, 'Hey, this is different.' "
The Ravens had just as many problems on offense and some of the players have even privately questioned the integrity of several teammates who are nursing injuries. Receiver Jermaine Lewis has missed the last three games with a severely sprained ankle while starting offensive linemen Wally Williams (torn muscle in neck), Jonathan Ogden (ankles) and Orlando Brown (ankle) have missed two straight games. Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa missed the Bears game with a sprained neck, and tight end Eric Green missed the second half with a bruised knee.
The Ravens are playing with a makeshift offensive line, one that struggled Sunday against an array of Bears blitzes. The Ravens had only 176 yards of total offense.
"I said at the beginning of the year I thought this was a playoff team, but we just haven't dominated people," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh. "There is something missing here. Something is not right. Something is very wrong. I can't exactly put my finger on it."
The Ravens get one more chance Sunday against the Lions and Sanders, who has more yards rushing on grass than artificial playing surfaces. But the Lions are 5-10, too, and they could tank one on the road just as easily as the Ravens did Sunday.
"I'm not happy with the effort we gave, I'm not happy with my own effort," said Harbaugh. "You want to have a decent feeling about that last game and I think we'll give a great effort."
Boulware said: "We're going against one of the best running backs. That's a lot of motivation. We owe it to the fans and ourselves to go out and play a good game."
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Detroit Lions
Site: Ravens stadium
When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Tickets: Sold out
Line: Ravens by 1 1/2
Pub Date: 12/22/98