Maybe it was the fact that it was a home game. Maybe it was the fact that it was the season finale. Maybe it was the fact that it was Ted Marchibroda's last game.
Whatever it was, the Ravens didn't mail it in yesterday the way they did in Chicago last week.
They played hard enough to beat the Detroit Lions, 19-10, in a game that rang down the curtain on the Marchibroda era.
Guard Jeff Blackshear, who said a week ago that he knew the Ravens didn't have the right attitude in Chicago, said they came to play against the Lions.
"It was a totally different feeling," Blackshear said. "Guys wanted to go out and win. It showed out there today. Everybody played hard. Last week, I just felt we went out there and played soft and we just let those guys beat us and those guys weren't better than us."
Safety Stevon Moore said it was an emotional game.
"For some of the guys, it's going to be the last time the guys play together. We wanted to send Ted out a winner. It's how you like to finish up," Moore said.
Playing hard didn't change anything except to cost the Ravens some field position in next April's collegiate draft. Marchibroda is still going to be fired, perhaps today, with a 16-31-1 record. The coach all but announced his own departure, saying "as I leave here" although he later said, "I'm not announcing anything."
But the last win enables Marchibroda to leave with the conviction that -- except for the Chicago game -- the team played hard for him until the end.
"I can walk the streets of Baltimore with my head held up high," he said.
Marchibroda made it obvious he didn't think he got enough time to overcome the chaos of the move from Cleveland in the first year, when the team was hamstrung by salary cap and cash flow problems.
"It's almost like this is my second year," he said. "You couldn't win the first year. Really. I couldn't win. The first year was thrown away. What did we have? Fifty-one guys [teams are allowed 53]. We didn't have a practice squad. Sometimes the mountain is a little too tough to climb."
Marchibroda has been criticized for several things, including not having an offensive coordinator, but he said, "Those are minor things. Those are little things. Some things are very important. One, two, three are important. Fifteen, 16, 17, forget about those," he said.
So what were one, two, three on the list?
"I'm not going into one, two and three," he said as he declined to burn any bridges.
It can be debated how much responsibility Marchibroda must bear for the team's failure. He conceded that for all the problems, "You're still supposed to win."
In the puzzle palace that is the Ravens' organization, it's always difficult to tell who's responsible for what. But the unanswered question is whether the Ravens' organization knows how to win.
For better or worse, it's now the next coach's problem.
Highlights and lowlights of a game that allowed Marchibroda to leave on a winning note:
Turning points: After getting nine gift points in the first quarter on a safety and 2-yard drive set up by a fumble recovery, the Ravens put together a 97-yard drive in the second quarter that gave them a 16-0 lead. After the Lions cut the deficit to 16-10 in the final quarter, the Ravens put together a 51-yard drive that set up the field goal that wrapped it up.
Ground game: Priest Holmes became the Ravens' first 1,000-yard rusher when he ran for 132 yards. He finished with 1,008 yards and he got 99 or more in five of the Ravens' six wins. But the problem is that he got 400 of his yards in two games against Cincinnati and the next coach will have to decide whether Holmes is the answer at running back.
Stifling Sanders: This was probably the only game Barry Sanders will play in Baltimore and it was not a memorable one. The Ravens' defense was disciplined, took away his cutback lanes and held him to 41 yards on 19 carries. He got 31 in one carry, so he gained just 10 yards in his other 18 carries. He finished the season with 1,491 yards, ending his string of 1,500-yard seasons at four. Sanders has 15,269 career yards. He now needs 1,458 next year to break Walter Payton's record of 16,726.
Sloppy play: The Lions played about as poorly as the Ravens did last week in Chicago. They were called for 12 penalties, six for false starts. In one sequence late in the second quarter, they had a second-and-one at their 46. First, Walter Rasby dropped a pass to make it third-and-one. He was then called for a false start to make it third-and-six. Then Jeff Hartings was called for another false start that made it third-and-11. After an incomplete pass, the Lions had to punt.
Homecoming: Frank Reich, the former Maryland quarterback, had a tough day as he passed for 195 yards and produced 10 points. He wasn't helped by his offensive line, which was dominated by the Ravens' defensive line. The Lions even gave up an automatic safety when Ray Roberts was called for holding Peter Boulware in the end zone.
Pub Date: 12/28/98